On a Sunday full of excellent pitching duels, the best will occur in Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers host the Boston Red Sox. Texas start with Yu Darvish, who has a fantastic arsenal of pitches – as many as eight of them. Last season, which was the Japanese import’s first in the Major Leagues, he had a tendency to be a bit too fine while trying to throw the perfect pitch. The result was unnecessarily high pitch counts and an overall performance that didn’t align with his considerable skill. This year, he’s refined his approach and the results have been spectacular. He’s 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA and coming into the weekend was leading the American League in strikeout with 58.
Red Sox starter Jon Lester may not be as spectacular, but he’s been every bit as valuable. At 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA, he’s mixed his fastball with a sinker, a cut fastball, a curveball and a change-up to effectively keep hitters off balance this year. So who wins this one? It doesn’t matter, as the bet here is that both will perform well. Darvish has been great at home in his career (13-2 win-loss record) and Lester actually has a better lifetime ERA on the road than at home. Go with the unders as these pitchers are currently in enough form to deliver a pitching masterclass.
The Colorado Rockies will prevail at home in an interleague clash against the Tampa Bay Rays. Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is one of baseball’s hidden gems. Despite pitching in the always difficult Coors Field, he’s put up a solid career ERA of 3.55 (his home ERA in the rarified air of Denver is 3.99, which is very impressive). This year, Chacin has been particularly deft, registering a 1.46 ERA in four starts. He has dealt with injury and this will be his first start since coming off the disabled list. Assuming he’s healthy, he should be at a big advantage in this pitching clash.
The reason: Alex Cobb, the Rays’ starter, has never pitched in Colorado, which is a difficult experience. In fact, Cobb has yet to show the same stuff on the road (4.16 ERA) as he does when at home (3.23 ERA). Look for the Rockies to get the best of the 25-year-old Cobb and capture the win.