By: Swinging Johnson
Boston Red Sox (76-55, +9.4 units)
Mike Napoli's RBI single followed by Jonny Gomes' three-run blast in the first inning provided all the runs the Sox would need to slow the crazy train rolling along in Chavez Ravine. The Red Sox derailed the LA Express in a 4-2 victory which gives them the opportunity to be the first team to take a series from the Dodgers at home since the Diamondbacks stole two of three in June.
Boston has gotten exceptional pitching thus far in the series and will pin their hopes on recently acquired Jake Peavy. Peavy has been very good since trading in his White Sox for Red Sox. He has pitched solidly in three of four appearances, including his last outing when he was pulled perhaps a bit early by manager John Farrell in a 3-2 loss to the Giants.
While the Dodgers have been giving opposing pitchers fits, historically Peavy has owned them. Though the veteran right-hander has not faced Big Blue since May of '09 in which he scattered just two hits and allowed no runs through eight innings of work, that performance is indicative of the success he has had against them. Peavy is 13-2, producing a sparkling 2.27 ERA in his 24 career appearances against LA.
LA Dodgers (76-53, +12.9 units)
Though Yasiel Puig collected two hits in yesterday's loss and has been the Cinderella story of the 2013 season, teammate Adrian Gonzalez is quietly knocking in runs and contributing mightily to the success of the Dodgers. Gonzalez had both RBI's in yesterday's loss and now has 14 over his last 17 contests.
Chris Capuano takes the hill for LA and he has been struggling recently. Yet, despite his 7.53 ERA over his last three appearances, his team has emerged victorious in his last seven consecutive outings. His offense bailed him out again in his last start versus the Marlins where he allowed six hits and three earned runs over only five innings of work but the Dodgers went on to a 6-4 victory and he managed a W because of it.
The home cooking hasn't helped him at all this season as he stands at 2-4 with a 6.23 ERA in front of the Dodger faithful. Capuano has never faced the Boston Red Sox.
We're on a roll with our free picks, after cashing with the Dodgers in the opener and Under 7 in yesterday's 4-2 Boston victory. Officially we are 4-1 over our last five dating back to my coverage of the Red Sox/Giants series. But what about today's game Swinger because that's the only thing that matters here and now.
Here's the deal. You've got a pitcher in Jake Peavy who won the NL Cy Young when he was chuckin' for the Padres versus a career sub .500 pitcher in Chris Capuano. Now I'm not confusing this older Jake Peavy with the younger more brilliant version but he's still pretty good on most days and still dazzling every now and again.
Capuano, on the other hand, was barely middling in his last start and lousy in the previous two. But he's a mercurial pitcher to say the least. He has had several appearances this season when he has gone out and tossed five or six innings of scoreless ball. But when the opposition gets to him, he's all done because he's a maximum six inning pitcher even on his best days.
As I peruse the MLB odds I am looking for a spot and some value if I can find it. Here we have two of the best teams in the business down to the rubber game. Once again, I refuse to overthink it and get cute so I'm going to side with the better pitcher who has historically dominated the opposition he'll face today. That pitcher is Jake Peavy and the Red Sox are my choice in our MLB picks tonight.
Play the Red Sox -110 at WilliamHill.com as we look to cash in our third consecutive baseball ticket.
By: Swinging Johnson
Boston Red Sox (75-55, +8.3 units)
The Red Sox got a solid pitching performance out of veteran John Lackey but once again they failed to provide the big right-hander with any run support. The Sox bats were stymied by the brilliant performance of Ricky Nolasco who allowed just two hits and no runs to lead Big Blue to yet another victory.
Boston hopes to turn things around tonight as they send pseudo-ace Jon Lester to the hill but no matter what Lester does, he can't win this game or any other, without his teammates plating at least a run. After a few early season bumps, the 29-year-old southpaw appears to be pitching like vintage Jon Lester. He turned in eight plus scoreless innings against San Francisco to lead the Sox to a 7-0 shutout over the defending World Champs.
Lester has positively dazzled in his last four road starts, posting a 0.94 ERA but has yet to face the Dodgers in this or any year. He will make his debut in Dodger Stadium against an LA edition that has been dismantling pitching staffs since June. Fortunately for Boston, they will have a well-rested bullpen who had the luxury of watching the game last night as John Lackey pitched eight full innings with LA never having to take their final three at-bats.
LA Dodgers (76-52, +14.1 units)
If it were not for Hanley Ramirez's (former Red Sox) two-run shot in the 4th that drove in Carl Crawford (yet another Boston alumnus), the Dodgers may have wasted a fine pitching performance by Ricky Nolasco. Instead they made sure the Red Sox wasted their own pitcher's fine performance as John Lackey took the loss in another example of how pitcher's records can be deceiving.
LA will trot out Hyun-Jin Ryu who is 4-1 with a 1.87 in his last five appearances. Ryu loves the home cooking at Chavez Ravine as he has sparkled in front of the Dodger faithful, amassing a 6-1 record and a 1.78 ERA. Ryu's last outing was a bit pedestrian by his lofty standards when he allowed three earned runs on six hits in a 6-2 loss to the lowly Marlins. Like his counterpart today, Ryu has yet to pitch against the opposition in his career.
I'm not sure how you can comfortably pick a side in this one. The betting odds suggest that offshore books are dealing the Dodgers as slight favorites but is picking up a few pennies in vig worth placing a value bet on Boston? I don't think so.
So, we must turn our lonely eyes to the total. We have two top tier pitchers who are both in the midst of a very good run. Lester has found his breaking ball along with his confidence and Ryu is virtually invincible when he takes the mound at home. Factor in some sleepy bats on both sides of the equation and the answer regarding our MLB picks is quite simple - the Under.
Don't over think this one boys and girls. Sometimes when it walks like a duck and quack likes a duck - it's a duck, dummy. I welcome the contrarians to manufacture a reason to bet Over here other than the fact that the total should be seductively low. But lo and behold, the total is not all that unreasonable...which gives me cause for pause. Having been around the block, a good number is always met with a blend of cautious optimism and downright suspicion.
Nevertheless, I'm looking for a classic pitcher's duel which means low numbers on the scoreboard.
Free Picks: Play Under 7 (-105) at WilliamHill.com
By: Swinging Johnson
Boston Red Sox (75-54, +9.4 units)
The Red Sox had yesterday off to pack their bags and fly south to LA after winning the rubber game and taking the series against San Francisco. The Sox bats erupted on Wednesday night as they torched Barry Zito for six runs and banished him to the dugout after only three plus innings en route to a 12-1 blowout over the defending World Champions.
Will Middlebrooks has been on fire since being summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket with a sizzling .441 batting average, 11 RBI’s and added a solo shot in Wednesday night’s game. Middlebrooks’ hot hitting goes hand-in-hand with his teammates, at least when it comes to interleague play. Boston is batting .318 and averaging almost six runs per game when facing the Senior Circuit. Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury have led the charge and are ranked first and second respectively in AL vs. NL batting averages.
Veteran John Lackey will try and cool off the white hot Dodgers. Lackey looked sharp in his last appearance as he stifled the Yankees lineup and walked off the mound after pitching 6 2/3 innings, scattering six hits and allowing only one run in Boston’s 6-1 victory. Lackey last faced the Dodgers over four years ago so the 5-3 loss means little in terms of evaluating our MLB picks for tonight’s affair.
LA Dodgers (75-52, +13.1 units)
The Dodgers hooked the Marlins last night 6-0 and took three of four games in the set before flying back home to La La Land. Nobody could have ever predicted the furious run this team would make to make the NL West a laugher at this stage of the season. LA has not only had timely hitting but dazzling pitching performances. The team’s ERA is a sparkling 1.86 over a 12 game stretch of which they have won ten.
Ricky Nolasco is proving to be a fine addition to the Dodgers rotation after being acquired from the Marlins. He has compiled a 4-1 mark to go along with a solid 2.98 ERA since coming over from Miami. However Nolasco will try to purge the memory of his last performance against the Red Sox when he was a member of the Marlins. Nolasco was lit up for nine runs, all earned, and chased after only three plus innings of work in a 15-5 loss to Boston in June of last year.
My kneejerk reaction is to side with the Dodgers - and why not? They are the hottest team in baseball, they have a tough pitcher in Ricky Nolasco, their bats are hot, they are at home and of course, there’s that little ax to grind by Messrs.’ Gonzalez and Crawford.
However, the Sox have the benefit of a night off and they ripped into tonight’s starter Nolasco twice last season. John Lackey has remained solid for Boston and pitched a dandy against the Yankees last time out. As I contemplate tonight’s game I swear to you I have not looked at the MLB odds. I am predicting that the oddsmakers are installing the Dodgers as -130 favorites. But now I have to look and see how close or embarrassingly far I was from the mark.
Alas, I see Big Blue opened up at about -120 and has crept down about a dime. While I wouldn’t spend the rent money on this one, I would side with the home team here.