Home run (Safest bet)
Pick the Toronto Blue Jays, on at 1.55, to triumph at home versus the Houston Astros.
The Astros have surprisingly started the season right around a .500 winning percentage, but don’t expect a victory from them on Tuesday in Canada.
Thus far, the Astros have been a tale of two clubs. Their hitting has been consistently weak, but when Scott Feldman and Jarred Cosart have pitched (and pitched expertly), the team has done just enough with the bat to come out on top. Neither of those pitchers throw in this game.
Instead, the ball is being given to Brett Oberholtzer. The left-hander was lackluster in his first start against the New York Yankees (5 2/3 innings pitched, five hits and three runs allowed). That outing follows a spring where he posted an 11.00 ERA.
Toronto has had a similar rocky road when it comes to the club’s pitchers, but there are two differences in this game.
The first is Mark Buehrle has been the one pitcher to deliver a sparkling performance for the club’s rotation this season. In his debut start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Buehrle threw 8 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 11.
Buehrle also pitches well at the Rogers Centre (3.36 ERA in 2013 there compared to 4.94 on the road). The second is, despite sluggish starts by the Blue Jays lineup, I rate their hitters. As a result, this is precisely the type of game to expect an offensive breakout. With the left-handed Oberholtzer on the pitchers’ mound, Toronto’s strong right-handed hitters Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista should thrive.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Chicago Cubs, on at 2.10, to win at Wrigley Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates are the better team, but the Cubs could steal one here. Both starting pitchers have already faced the opposing hitters in this game once this year – and looked good doing it. Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton threw a shutout over six innings at home against this very Cubs team. As for Jackson, he yielded just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings of work.
So what will be the separator here? The answer: Wrigley Field. Both pitchers threw their debut at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. The move to Chicago’s North Side will not suit Morton well. In five career starts he has a 5.60 ERA at Wrigley. Moreover, despite his stellar performance last time out, a clutch of Cubs hitters have good histories opposing Morton. Nate Schierholtz (.333 batting average), Starlin Castro (.333), Emilio Bonifacio (.333) and Luis Valbuena (.273) have all had strong moments against the right-hander. As for Pirates hitters, they own a combined .196 batting average in 170 plate appearances lifetime against Jackson.