Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Philadelphia Phillies (1.73) to triumph in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks’ struggles will continue on Saturday as their starter Bronson Arroyo is in complete disarray. Well known as a work horse, Arroyo may be feeling the effects of having thrown more than 200 innings in eight of the last nine years (and in that ninth year he threw 199 innings). His velocity is down, and he’s getting hit hard. In four starts, he possesses a 9.50 ERA and has given up a staggering 29 hits in 18 innings. Even when he was sharp, Phillies hitters had his number. In 134 lifetime plate appearances, Philadelphia players own a gaudy .355 batting average and a .612 slugging percentage versus Arroyo.
Arizona’s hopes aren’t helped by Philadelphia man on the pitcher’s mound, Cliff Lee. The left-hander is off to a typically reliable start to his campaign. In five appearance he owns a 3.09 ERA. In two appearances a Chase Field, he’s looked comfortable, tallying a 2.57 ERA. Arizona hitters also bring an unimpressive career .227 batting average to this game in 123 plate appearances.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Take the Pittsburgh Pirates, on at 2.00, to steal a victory on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pittsburgh has been a surprise disappointment in this early season, but they’ll enjoy a bright moment against the better-performing Cardinals. The Pirates will benefit from facing one of the Cardinals’ weaker pitchers, Tyler Lyons. The left-hander has a career 2-5 record and a 4.58 ERA so he’s yet to prove he can provide consistent successful starts in the Major Leagues.
Another key factor is that Pittsburgh has swung the bat much better against left-handers this year than righties. Facing pitchers who, like Lyons, throw with their left hand, the Pirates have a .264 batting average with a .342 on base percentage and a healthy .434 slugging percentage. Against righties those numbers drop to .223, .295 and .360 respectively.
The Pirates pitch Francisco Liriano. He’s gotten off to a sluggish start in 2014 with a 0-3 record and a 4.22 ERA. But in actuality he’s thrown better than those numbers suggest. His fielding independent pitching (FIP), which tends to give a better indication of how someone has pitched, is 3.88, and he hasn’t been blown out in any of his starts. Against the Cardinals, he has a good history versus key members Allen Craig (hitless in 11 plate appearances), Matt Carpenter (.188 batting average) and Yadier Molina (.167 batting average).