Home run (Safe play)
Go with the Detroit Tigers, on at 1.44, to win at home against the Minnesota Twins.
There are very few games that mean something in these final days of the season, but this Friday tilt is very important to one of these clubs. The Tigers are still trying to lock in an American League Central division title as the pesky Kansas City Royals are just behind them. As a result, a baseline here is that Detroit will be motivated and the Twins, who will finish at the back of that division, aren’t.
But beyond the general sense of urgency for the Tigers, they also have the superior starting pitcher. Detroit’s Rick Porcello has put up solid numbers this year (15-12 with 3.31 ERA). But most important, the last time he faced the Twins, he looked really good. On September 19, Porcello threw eight innings against Minnesota, allowing seven hits and just two runs.
He’ll square off against Anthony Swarzak. I actually like this right-hander quite a bit…but as a middle reliever rather than a starter. He’s only started three games this year (out of forty-nine) and his ERA in those three contests is a troubling 6.59. (And, despite my admiration, his ERA as a reliever is still an underwhelming 4.10). The upshot: he’s a guy who will struggle to hang deep into the game. Don’t expect his bullpen mates to offer much relief – the Twins rank as the worst in the AL in terms of giving up runs.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In Washington, take the Miami Marlins at 2.45 to win on the road in game two of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.
This contest is a true rarity in modern day baseball – it will mark the fourth game the Nationals have played in back-to-back games. Yep, because of rain outs and scheduling quirks, the baseball gods have shoe-horned in two straight doubleheaders for Washington.
By the time the Nationals, who have already clinched the National League East title, gets to game four of this marathon they’ll be ready to start the clubhouse attendant rather than further tiring out their guys before they make a run at the World Series. Both clubs are starting pitchers who aren’t expected to go deep. The Marlins’ Andrew Heany hasn’t thrown more than 3 2/3 innings in a Major League game since June 29. The Nationals’ Taylor Hill has never pitched more than 3 1/3 innings in a Big League contest.
With that in mind expect both teams to rely heavily on their bullpens. While this would normally favour Washington (a team with a stronger bullpen than the Marlins), this is a unique situation. Again, the Nationals will be so taxed from the three previous games over Thursday and Friday. Moreover, to the extent they’ll have fresh arms, they’re not going to want to waste them in this meaningless contest.
In contrast, the Marlins have no reason to protect so they’ll give their best effort.