Betting Spring Training games is at best an iffy proposition, for the obvious reasons we've mentioned on these pages before. But with the regular season almost upon us, Spring Training games take on more of the look of regular season games, which one would think would make for an easier time when placing your MLB picks.
At least in theory, right?
Here's our take on a couple of hardball games for Wednesday, with free picks. But as always with our Spring Training picks we recommend proceeding with caution.
Spring Training Picks Record: 6-6
Astros at Mets (6 pm ET)
In winning four of its last five games Houston has pulled to 13-14 this Spring. Astros pitching has led the way, allowing just 16 runs over its last six games.
New York has won six of its last nine to get to 13-13, and has scored 25 runs over its last four games.
Righty Edgar Gonzalez, who's allowed two runs in 10 innings this spring, is slated to start for Houston Wednesday against Mets lefty Jon Niese, who's allowed just three runs through 17-plus innings this spring.
Big picture, Houston lost 107 games last year, and might lose 100 games again this season playing in a tough AL West Division. So the Astros are simply looking to begin a rebuilding process this season under new manager Bo Porter, who should be using these last Spring Training games to establishing a good vibe heading into next week.
New York, meanwhile, is basically the same team that went 74-88 last year, although with some better luck its health should be better this year. The Mets played above .500 for much of last year, but injuries (and other things) eventually took their toll.
Houston is probably going to be a terrible team again this season, but that doesn't mean the Astros are a bad Spring Training bet. And we try to limit our Spring Training picks to underdogs, because we don't like giving prices on favorites that might not have winning at the top of their list of priorities.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Astros at the +130 offered at 5Dimes.
Yankees at Orioles (7 pm ET)
New York, scrambling through Spring Training like it hasn't had to in many years, has alternated wins and losses for the last two weeks. For the spring the Yanks are 12-17.
The Pinstripes just made a deal with the Angels this week, bringing in 34-year-old OF Vernon Wells to play left field. In his first game with his new team the former Blue Jay went 0-for-3 Tuesday.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has won seven of its last 10 games and stands at 18-8 this spring. Lately, the O's have simply been out-slugging foes, scoring 53 runs over their last eight games while allowing 56.
Big picture, New York is dealing with several injuries at the moment (Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod) and does not loom as the heavy favorite in the AL East like it usually does. Also, the Yanks are still a veteran club that is just looking to get to the regular season without anyone else getting hurt. So motivation is a concern for games like Wednesday's contest.
Baltimore, on the other hand, probably likes beating the Yankees any time, anywhere, whether it's in Sarasota, Camden Yards or the Bronx.
Last year these teams split nine games during the regular-season, before New York took the Orioles out in five games in the divisional round of the American League playoffs.
David Phelps, who's given up 10 runs through 22-plus innings this spring, is expected to start Wednesday for New York against Baltimore newcomer Jair Jurrjens, who's allowed eight runs in 13-plus innings this spring.
The Orioles have apparently been treating Spring Training as a primer for the regular season, while the Yankees haven't really had that luxury. But in sticking with our “no favorites” theory for betting Spring Training games, and despite our concerns about motivation, we're leaning toward New York with the underdog price.
Free MLB Pick: We'll add the the Yanks at the +121 offered at Pinnacle to our free MLB picks for Wednesday.