Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Cincinnati Reds - 1.60 - to win at home against the Chicago Cubs.
The free-falling Cubs are going to struggle in this Thursday contest. It becomes hard for players on the field when a team’s front office decides to sell off players and look to the future. That’s precisely what Chicago recently did when they traded their two top starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, primarily for future prospects. As a result, not surprisingly, coming into yesterday’s game the Cubs were on a five-game losing streak.
There are some Cubs players who are probably happy about the trade – the minor leaguers who now get a chance to fill the vacuum left by those stars. One such player is Kyle Hendricks, who will be making his Major League debut in this match. His numbers were solid in the minors, but this is a big step up in class as he’s facing a Reds lineup that has been clicking as of late. In the past week, the team has posted a .286 batting average, .340 on base percentage and .434 slugging percentage.
As for the hitting coming from Kendrick’s new big league teammates, they rank below average overall in the National League for run production. Plus, they’ll face the Reds’ Homer Bailey, who after a rocky beginning to the season, appears to be getting his groove on. In his past two starts he’s posted a 0.53 ERA.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Look for the Kansas City Royals to score first in their home contest vs the Detroit Tigers; take it at 2.10
It’s always a big swallow to pick the home team to score first (as they get the second chance to hit), but there are good reasons here.
The first is Tigers’ starter Drew Smyly’s early game difficulties. In fourteen first-inning appearances in 2014 he has a woeful 5.79 ERA. It improves in the second inning (3.86) but the struggles continue in the third (4.72). The upshot: Overall, he’s most unreliable in the first third of a game.
In contrast, Royals’ pitcher Jeremy Guthrie tends to be sharp at the beginning. He has a 3.00 ERA in eighteen first-inning appearances this year and a 2.00 ERA over the same stretch of second inning opportunities. Admittedly, he tends to falter by the third inning (5.50 ERA), but the wager here is that he holds on long enough for his offence to do the business.
It’s also worth noting that the Tigers aren’t particularly good first inning hitters. They’ve scored fewer runs in the opening frame (36) than any other inning of the game other than the eighth. The team has done only slightly better in the second (39 runs).
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