At first glance, the Minnesota Twins visiting the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday seems pretty even. But look again.
It’s true neither team is expected to do much this season and while both lineups have their stars – the Orioles with Adam Jones and Matt Wieters and the Twins with a healthy Joe Mauer – there is a notable difference in starting pitchers.
Minnesota is going with Francisco Liriano, while Baltimore counters with Tommy Hunter. In 2010 Liriano received votes in the Cy Young Award balloting, but he backslid big time in 2011 thanks to injury.
This spring he looked like his old dominant self, posting a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings. Most notably, his control (which had been dodgy last year) looked good. He issued just 5 walks in that span.
Hunter did have a solid season for the Texas Rangers in 2010, posting a 13-4 record, but he never seemed comfortable last year after being traded to the Orioles. Following the deal, Hunter gave up four runs or more in 8 of his 11 starts. As a result, Minnesota is worth consideration at 1.95 compared to Baltimore’s 1.85.
The safest bet of the night will be the Philadelphia Phillies on the road versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. In their opening matchup, I suggested the Pirates, based on the strength of their starter Erik Bedard, could pull out the upset (Bedard was excellent but lost 1-0 to Roy Halladay).
This time the Pirates lack as strong a presence on the mound with Jeff Karstens. The righty is typically a slow starter with a lifetime 4.99 ERA in the season’s first month.
In contrast, the Pirates lineup must face Cliff Lee. As number one starter in almost any other pitching rotation, Lee is the number two pitcher for the Phillies, giving him a mismatch. He has also only faced the Pirates twice in his career, meaning there’s relatively little experience in the Pittsburgh line up against him.
That said the line reflects this disparity; Philadelphia is on at 1.55, while Pittsburgh can be had for 2.45.