Baseball gets underway in earnest on Thursday with seven Major League games slated. If you want an informed long shot consider the Pittsburgh Pirates surprising the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates are at home for this opener and send lefty Erik Bedard to the mound. When healthy, Bedard has been an upper echelon pitcher. He has experience throwing on opening day (this will be his third assignment) and he has something to prove – because of injury he’s on his third different team since the beginning of last season.
The Phillies send their big ace Roy Halladay. He’s one of the best in the game. But the first month of the season has historically been the eight-time All-Star’s worst, posting a 3.72 ERA in March/April over his career. (He’s a mediocre 4-3 with a 3.75 ERA in nine lifetime opening day starts.) Throw in the fact that a banged up Phillies line-up lacks top hitters Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and there’s hope Pittsburgh may pull this upset. The Pirates are the longest shot of the day at 2.60, while the Phillies are available at 1.50.
If you’re looking for a surer bet, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a strong favourite on the road against the San Diego Padres. Reigning Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw is on the mound for Los Angeles and, while spring training stats tend to be somewhat deceptive, one shouldn’t overlook Kershaw’s 2.45 ERA in the pre-season. At the least, it suggests he’s not likely to have a letdown season.
The fact the Dodgers have also settled their long-standing ownership woes recently should not be underestimated (numerous players have expressed their relief that the off-field distraction will be gone).
While the Padres starter, former Cincinnati Reds starter Edinson Volquez, is a lot better than his 2011 stat line suggests, his high walk total in the spring – 11 in just 20.2 innings – indicates he’s not quite comfortable with his new club yet. Moreover, the Padres lineup is one of the less menacing in the National League. Dodgers are on at 1.65, while the Padres can be had at 2.25.