I have three baseball games on the schedule for Thursday, so let’s get right to them.
Cincinnati Reds (+147) @ Atlanta Braves (5-20: 1:05 PM ET ) (Leake vs. Hanson): Mike Leake was drafted in the 1st round with the 8th pick just last year. Right now he’s 22 years old and 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds, playing his home games at one of the best hitter parks in the league. You don’t hear much about him because he’s sitting in Cincinnati – but this kid is legit. He’s finished 6 innings every time out and has given up more than 3 runs just once, less than 3 runs 4 times. He’s started just 7 games. Tommy Hanson is 3-3, but his numbers are even better than Leake’s (2.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and he’s just 23 years old. Talk about two talented pitchers looking to rule the National League for the next decade. This is one of my favorite match-ups of the week. These are two of the hottest teams in the NL, as the Braves are 7-3 over their last 10 and the Reds even better at 8-2. Leake has been money on the road, winning each of his last 2 starts, shutting down the Cubs in Chicago then out-dueling Adam Wainwright in a win over St. Louis. Hanson had one bad inning his last time out, getting the loss against Arizona. But Hanson has just been decent at home this year, while Leake has been better on the road. The Reds offense has also been more productive. The money is in their favor as well. I like the Reds on the road.
Minnesota Twins (+130) @ Boston Red Sox (5-20: 7:10 PM ET) (Liriano vs. Lester): Jon Lester has yet to pick up a win against Minnesota in 4 tries over the last 3 years. Francisco Liriano recently shut down the Red Sox, pitching 7 shutout innings in Boston. Boston’s well publicized demise is a little much, to be honest, as they’re still 21-20 with 3/4s of the season still to come. But a power lefty that pitches well on the road, yeah, I like Minnesota’s chances.
Colorado Rockies (-140) @ Houston Astros (UNDER 6.5) (5-20: 8:05 PM ET) (Jimenez vs. Oswalt): I don’t know which team is more disappointing. I mean, Houston was supposed to be bad, but this bad? They look like the worst team in baseball, and 14-26 in the National League Central seems pretty disgusting. Only the Orioles have a worse record, and at least they are stuck in a division with Tampa Bay, New York, Boston, and Toronto – a little different fire power there. But Colorado should be good – and they have lost 6 of their last 10, and dropped to 19-20 after a solid start to the season. Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound, but they’ll have to score to win – though not much. Jimenez already has a no-no on his resume this season, and his .99 WHIP and 1.12 ERA are more than impressive. This game should be extremely low scoring. Roy Oswalt has a history of shutting down the Rockies while Ubaldo has a history of shutting down the Astros (and everyone else this year). I’m making two bets here. I like the under, despite the low-low number of 6.5 – and I like the Rockies. They win with Jimenez on the mound.
I won a game and lost a game on Wednesday as the Rays won late and the A’s fell to a new and improved Derek Holland. I have three games on tap for Friday’s MLB action, and all three boast great pitching match-ups. Here’s what I have in mind…
Boston Red Sox (-125) @ Detroit Tigers (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Buchholz vs. Scherzer): Beckett was supposed to get the start for Boston, but his ailing life has him on the mend. That moves Clay Buchholz into the starting slot, and he’s been a little better than the Red Sox’ ace this season. Scherzer has shown some of his normal flashes of brilliance, but brilliance alone isn’t what has him rocking a 6.81 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. Max started off the season well, but he’s been killed lately, and they haven’t been the best offenses doing the damage, either. Boston has taken 6 of the last 7 match-ups against Detroit, and a win here would give them a 3-1 win in this series. I expect that to happen.
Minnesota Twins (+170) @ New York Yankees (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Liriano vs. Burnett): I’m pretty sure Burnett pooped in a paper bag, crunched it up, lit it on fire, then threw it on his own porch last time out. After allowing just 9 earned runs over his first 6 starts, Burnett allowed the Red Sox to smash him for 8 earned over just over 4 innings on the bump. The bag was smelly, and no matter how much he tried to stomp it out, it kept smoldering… A.J. has been a streaky pitcher in the past, and Liriano has been close to unhittable this season, posting a 2.36 ERA in his 6 starts. The Twins are 5-1 with Francisco on the mound, and even against the almighty Yankees, a win in New York is where I have my money.
Washington Nationals @ Colorado Rockies (-1.5; -120) (5-14: 7:05 PM ET) (Hernandez vs. Jimenez): Talk about one unlikely hero and another guy with all the crazy elite talent in the world – and both are straight dealing on the bump this season. Say what you want about how Livan Hernandez has been pitching for the last 236 years, but the guy is on his game. Ubaldo Jimenez already has a no-hitter on his resume this season, and the kid is lightening in a uniform for the Rockies. Both have allowed fewer walks and hits than innings pitched, this season, and that’s ridiculous. Ubaldo is responsible for 6 of the Rockies 16 wins this season. Dirty. I can’t bet against the powerful righty, even against a surprising Hernandez on the mound for Washington. If one of these guys is bound to come back to earth, it’s Livan.
My baseball picks haven’t been quite as hot as my NBA Playoff picks, but I’m pretty certain they’ll come around. Baseball is a long season, and if nothing, it’s all about things averaging out in the long run. Wednesday’s games should be entertaining, as two ace-type pitchers go at it in Los Angeles while two young guns with elite stuff brave Texas’ run-happy stadium. Here’s what I think of Wednesday’s games…
Tampa Bay Rays (-103) @ LA Angels (5-12: 7:05 PM ET ) (Price vs. Weaver): Neither team is an underdog in this one. If you want a team to win, you’ll be paying for it slightly. And while both pitchers are as solid as you get, I have to put my money on the Rays offense to continue their solid run production, and David Price should be able to stymie an Angles unit that hasn’t quite gotten their bats under them yet. Weaver has been up and down against the Angels, and Price has been the same. But David is pitching as well as he has since joining the starting rotation, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll take Tampa Bay.
Oakland Athletics (+132) @ Texas Rangers (5-12: 8:05 PM ET) (Gonzalez vs. Holland): I’m excited to see what Holland can do during his second run at the big leagues. He’s been lights out in AAA, but that’s not always telling of how the big show will turn out. I like this to be a low scoring game, despite being in Texas, as Gio Gonzalez has the off-speed stuff to keep the ball in the ball park and strikeout some of those Rangers big poppers. Last time these two teams (and pitchers) went at it, the A’s won 6-0 and Gio had his way with a solid Texas line-up. It’s a new season, sure, but confidence for a young pitcher is everything, and Gonzalez should be on the top of this game in Texas. The A’s have taken 3 of 4 from Texas so far this season.
Well, I lost both of my Tuesday picks in baseball, and while I can’t argue too much with the outcomes, those that watched Boston beat the Angels know that Ervin Santana came to play, and left with a tie game in the 8th inning. And Wainwright pitched a hell of a game for St. Louis, but Cole Hamels had his best outing of the year to grab a win for Philadelphia. I’ll try to get those two losses back on Thursday.
San Francisco Giants @ Florida Marlins (-117) (5-6: 7:10 PM ET) (Cain vs. Nolasco): The Giants can’t hit and Ricky Nolasco is about as accurate around the strike zone as any pitcher in baseball. Now, he doesn’t have unhittable stuff, but against San Francisco you’d have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then you have to add in Matt Cain, a guy that can’t buy a run from his line-up in 80% of the games he pitches in. Hanley Ramirez has been hot for Florida, and he often stays hot for long stretches. I like Florida to win at home.
Arizona Diamondbacks (-130) @ Houston Astros (5-6: 8:05 PM ET) (Haren vs. Rodriquez): Houston is borderline the worst team in baseball. It’s between them and those idiots in your beer league that take all the crap talking personal because they are so damn bad they have rabbit ears. And I think I’ll give the nod to Houston, because at least those beer league guys are drunk – who knows how they’d do if they were sober. Wandy Rodriguez was supposed to be the ace in Houston, with Oswalt getting older, and, well, the rest of the staff being who they are – a guy names Wandy (not to be confused with Randy) was supposed to take the next step after a solid season. Nope. Not even a real-life guy named Wandy can put on his super-hero outfit and save the Astros from a .333 win-percentage. Enter Dan Haren and this one is almost a guarantee. Haren doesn’t have great numbers early, and since his first half stats are always amazing, it’s about time he starts picking up the slack and striking entire teams out. Houston, step right up. I like Arizona.
I was 1-1 yesterday as the Tigers came through by putting 11 runs on the board against Minnesota and ace Scott Baker to get me a win, but Texas outlasted the White Sox, 6-5, to get me a loss. Oh, .500, how frustrating you are in all your soccer-tie glory. Here’s how I see today’s best match-ups.
Atlanta Braves @ St. Louis Cardinals (-165) (4-29: 1:40 PM ET) (Jurrjens vs. Wainwright): Jurrjens is supposed to be the Braves ace, and it’s a perfect representation of his struggled, because the Braves have lost 8 straight games, and ace’s are supposed to halt losing streaks. Well, there’s never a better time than now – but I just don’t see it. One reason is Adam Wainright and his elite stuff going up against a struggling Braves’ lineup. Jurrjens has a history of pitching well against St. Louis, but Wainright has done good things against Atlanta as well, and he’s off to a blistering start. I’m taking the Cardinals despite the poor pay out.
New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles (+150) (4-29: 7:05 PM ET) (Burnett vs. Matusz): I actually like the Orioles to come out of this home game with a win over the mighty Yankees. The Yanks are off to a great start, which is historically odd for them, but they are one of the best teams in baseball – so it makes sense. The Orioles have lost 17 of their first 21, but Brian Matusz has pitched very well and I see him stepping up against the Yankees at home. This win would be huge for Baltimore, and me, because the payout is nice. I’m taking the big dogs!
After losing each of my last two bets, I’m 6-5 with my baseball picks on the season, hardly good enough to call a hot start, but I’m staying on the right side of the .500 mark. We’ll see if I can’t step it up with my only two picks of the week. As always, I have some solid pitching match-ups today. Greinke and Marcum step up in the American League, while the new Philly, Roy Halladay, tries to halt his teams’ losing streak against Tim Hudson and the Braves.
Kansas City Royals @ Toronto Blue Jays (-120) (4-21: 12:37 PM ET) (Greinke vs. Marcum): I like both of these pitchers a lot, but Zach hasn’t brought it all together yet this year, and Marcum is looking good coming off his surgery. With the big name on the mound for the Royals, the line is shifted that way a bit, and there’s some good value on the lesser named ace in Toronto. Neither offense will do big things, so the money line looks like the good bet – this will likely be a close one. I’ve got my money on Marcum and his Jays.
Philadelphia Phillies (-1.5, +110) @ Atlanta Braves (4-21: 6:35 PM ET – ESPN) (Halladay vs. Hudson): This game is toying with me a little bit. Originally I liked Philadelphia to get it done behind Halladay, but then I thought Hudson might just give the Braves enough to pull it out at home, maybe hand Halladay his first loss in a Phils uniform. But after the Braves trouted around and scored 3 runs in the 9th to tied it, and Nate McLouth blasted a walk off HR to win it, I just can’t see Halladay failing when the Phillies need him most. This streak needs to stop, and he’s the guy that has to do it. The Braves lefty-heavy line-up will do their best to get to Roy, but I see the Phillies line-up stepping it up a bit for their new ace.
Thursday gives me a chance to check out a couple surly old veterans dealing on the mound against a couple young aces in the making. Wakefield has been around a long time, and his dancing knuckle ball probably has a lot to do with his impressive shelf life. Tim Hudson has a big fat arm surgery, but he’s pitching as well as ever, and he’s had a bit of success over the years. On the side of youth we’ve got Francisco Liriano and his flame throwing, biting slider style and the young Mat Latos throws straight gas. It’ll be fun to see age against youth.
Boston Red Sox @ Minnesota Twins (-120) (4-15: 1:10 PM ET) (Wakefield vs. Liriano): I like the things “working against me” in this match-up. I like the fact that Liriano struggled a bit last time out, and otherwise, during winter ball and in the spring, he was pretty lights out. I think he’ll pitch well in his 2nd start – and I know Boston doesn’t scare the kid. Also, Wakefield had his knuckler doing the twist last time out, going 7 innings with 6 strikeouts against the Royals. He’ll probably take a step backwards in his 2nd start. And the Twins always start the season playing well, so they have that working for them as well.
Atlanta Braves (-124) @ San Diego Padres (4-15: 6:35 PM ET) (Hudson vs. Latos): I would not be surprised on bit if Tim Hudson doesn’t allow a run in 6 or 7 innings in San Diego. The Padres aren’t good, and aside from a couple big boppers, they struggle to put runs on the board. Hudson is very consistent, doesn’t waste pitches, and doesn’t walk batters – without giving away free runs, I can’t see the Braves losing to San Diego. Latos is a solid young hurler, but a couple Braves lefties will give him trouble – maybe even The Rookie. Ha.
Well, the Red Sox are 1-3 after Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals and the Cardinals are 3-1 after a 9th inning homerun off closer Trevor Hoffman put them ahead 5-4. The Brewers and the Royals both sit at 2-2. If you take away the KC Royals (and they are getting better and better) three of these teams are supposed to compete for playoffs spots. Tomorrow we’ll see how the Royals, Brewers, and Cardinals can do with their aces on the mound, while Boston puts the Josh Beckett on the mound in Kansas City. That’s 4 pitchers with great stuff on Saturday, some of the best in the game, always a good show.
St. Louis Cardinals (+126) @ Milwaukee Brewers (4-10: 3:10 PM ET) (Carpenter vs. Gallardo): Carpenter came back from his year off and posted an awesome 2009. He was right at the top of the Cy Young talk, and probably would have walked away with it if not for Lincecum’s awesome numbers for a poor run producing team. Still, not many have consistency like Chris has it, and even against some of those big boppers in Milwaukee, he has the upper hand. Gallardo is a great young pitcher, but he has some location issues from time to time, and throws too many pitches, rarely going past the 6th inning. However, in one game last year, both these Aces went 8 innings in an extra innings affair, neither gave up a run. But Chris kept shutting down the Brewers, while Milwaukee lost both of Yovani’s next starts against St. Louis. I have to put my money on Carpenter here, especially with that plus money!
Boston Red Sox @ Kansas City Royals (+110) (4-10: 7:10 PM ET) (Buchholz vs. Greinke): Greinke was lights out last year. The guy really figured it out and became one of the best pitchers in the game. He shut down the Red Sox in his only outing, allowing just 2 hits and no runs in 6 innings while striking out five. I like Beckett too, and the mediocre Royals’ lineup will likely struggle to do much against one of the better pitchers in the game, but Grienke is more of a sure thing, and the Royals are getting +money at home with their ace on the bump. That sounds like a good bet to me.
The MLB Baseball season is just underway, in fact, we’re not even a week into the season yet. In most cases, elite pitching match-ups have already been played out, and some surprising performances have impressed me. We’re into the #3 and 4 starters for most teams now, but that doesn’t mean the pitching match-ups are 3 and 4 material everywhere. Here are a couple games with elite hurlers on the bump…
New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays (+100) (4-9: 7:10 PM ET) (Vasquez vs. Price): Javier Vasquez went to Atlanta to get things right – and he certainly did. Vasquez had one of his best seasons last year with Atlanta, so they went ahead and moved him at the peak of his value, those crafty Braves. Regardless, the Yankees now get another ace on the staff to team with last year’s free agent winnings, Sabathia and Burnett. Vasquez will have a tough line-up to deal with in Tampa, as the Rays can’t even find places to put all the hitters they roster. David Price isn’t a hitter, but the kid is going to be big-time for the Rays this season, and in the future. Last year saw some struggles from the future staff ace, but he looks to turn it up a notch this year, and who better to show your stuff against than New York. At home and basically even money, it’s hard for me not to take the Rays, especially when Price has shown a knack for holding the Yankees lineup in check. New York historically struggles early, and the Rays will be looking to prove their worth early.
Minnesota Twins (+120) @ Chicago White Sox (4-9: 8:10 PM ET) (Liriano vs. Danks): Danks is a very underrated young pitcher. He is very consistent and tough to beat – but the Twins have done a good job of getting the better of Danks. Minnesota has beaten Danks in each of the last 4 times he’s been on the bump against them. Liriano might have some of the nastiest stuff in baseball, but there’s so many question marks with him. Not for me, I watched him pitch in the off-season, and I watched him pitch this spring – his stuff is back and it’s nasty as ever. The Twins have beaten the White Sox in 9 of their last 10 meetings. I’m getting +120 here as well… You bet!