Home run(best bet)
Pick the New York Yankees (1.61) to beat the Houston Astros
This game, which will be played in Houston, should actually be closer than one might initially assume.
Still, the Yankees are a solid bet on the road. Houston gives ace-in-the-making Jarred Cosart the baseball to pitch. Cosart posted a 1.95 ERA in ten starts in 2013. But he has two problems in this game. The first is that any heroics he might offer will be limited by a weak Astros bullpen.
Last year, despite his great numbers, Cosart had only two decisions (posting a 1-1 record). That means that in eight of his ten starts, the ultimate result was decided by the team’s relief pitchers, who lost five of eight of those games.
The other issue is the rebooted Yankees lineup. New York has added Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to their roster and gets back Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, who missed nearly all of last season with injuries. This lineup has the potential to be the best in all of Major League Baseball. Adding to the Yankees position here is they have Hiroki Kuroda throwing. Kuroda has been one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers since joining the league from Japan in 2008.
He’s never had an ERA above 3.76. In other words, he always gives his team a chance to win – and with this lineup – that’s all they’ll need. Oh, and as for his career marks versus Houston, Kuroda is 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA in eight starts.
Squeeze play (gutsiest call)
The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals will combine for fewer than 7.5 runs; take it at 1.87
On paper, this should be a high scoring game. After all, the Cardinals and the Reds finished first and third, respectively, in runs scored per game last year. But this is a contest where pitching will trump hitting as both clubs send young up-and-comers to the pitchers’ mound.
St. Louis’ Michael Wacha became a sensation last post season when, in the Division Series and League Championship Series, he went a combined 3-0 with just one run allowed in 21 innings. He faltered a bit in one of his World Series outings, but has looked good this spring and is poised to perform in a dominating style. (Not to mention, he dominated the Reds last season throwing 10 shutout innings – and striking out 10 – in two appearances).
Less touted, but equally as effective, is Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani. The left-hander put up a 2.92 ERA in 23 appearances in 2013 and even had a 2-0 record against the Cardinals last year. Two final points: Both hitting lineup haven’t made gaudy upgrades, and while the Reds were a great hitting team, Great American Ball Park ranked just sixteenth in run production out of thirty stadiums last year.