The title of this Hump Day article could easily be – Bring The Heat – there are several instances today of top pitcher’s going head to head making for intriguing MLB picks versus the betting odds.
What we will look for here is what hurlers might have an edge against mound opponent or the other team and blend in the aspect of the sportsbooks MLB odds and paint a complete picture.
Kluber vs. Samardzija – Afternoon Action
You have to feel for Cleveland’s ace Corey Kluber. In spite of holding opposing teams to a .176 batting average, yielding two or fewer runs in each of his three outings and averaging more than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings, he’s 0-2 (2.49 ERA). His teammates have failed to score many runs, twice leaving games in the seventh inning or beyond tied at 2-2 and his loss was a 2-0 shutout against Houston. Against Chicago he’s 4-2 with a 3.14 ERA.
The White Sox Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 4.29) has never faced Cleveland but he will fill much better about taking them on this afternoon than we would have a week ago. After being reached for nine runs and 14 hits in 13 innings in his first two starts, the former Notre Dame wide receiver allowed one run over eight innings to Detroit in his last start, leaving the game tied.
Cleveland is a -123 favorite for this afternoon’s affair and both teams are not scoring (3.4 runs per game), which is why they are both 5-8. A case can be made Samardzija has been a hard luck pitcher, but he seems to make that once crucial mistake in low scoring games which is why he is 1-14 when the money line is +125 to -125 the last two seasons. (Team's Record)
Grade – C (for Cleveland)
Kershaw vs. Bumgarner – A little history in the making
Tonight in San Francisco, this will be the first time in baseball the reigning regular-season MVP will oppose the World Series MVP as pitchers. Both pitchers have rounded into form, with Clayton Kershaw (1-1) throwing like an everyday pitcher with a 4.42 ERA. Madison Bumgarner is 1-1 with a lofty 5.29 ERA and MLB baseball handicappers and pretty much anyone who follows the game closely is not stunned to learn the lefthander’s velocity is down across the board on all his pitches after the heavy postseason workload.
While I have a solution for Bumgarner, it will not happen, so never mind, the big-game pitcher is 11-5 with 2.56 ERA against the hated Dodgers and he’s 2-1 versus his mound counterpart.
Kershaw is a perfectionist and his slow start this season makes his crazy and do not think for a minute he would love to have Bumgarner playoff success. The talented port-sider is 14-5 lifetime against San Francisco with a sterling 1.44 ERA and at AT&T Park, he’s 8-2 with a “minny me” 0.84 ERA.
After last night’s loss, L.A. is up to -140 favorites with the Un6 (-120). The Dodgers have the better team, but in this rivalry that has not always mattered. For MLB picks the value is with San Fran, yet hard to go against either pitcher. Since this talented twosome are a combined 26-12 UNDER when facing the other team, a 3-2 final score is believable.
Grade – A (for Excellence in matchup and Totals Play)
Gray vs. Weaver – Crafty Showdown
Oakland is -115 road favorite because they often give the Angels fits at the Big A and Sonny Gray has been the better pitcher thus is in 2015. Gray (1-0) has reestablished himself as the No. 1 starter for the A’s and has a 2.11 ERA and more impressively a 0.98 WHIP this season. Though 5’11 and 180 pounds, Gray has a darting low 90’s fastball and what scouts call a “yakker” curveball (freezes hitters for called strikes) he will toss on any count.
Never a hard thrower, at 32, Jered Weaver (0-2, 6.61) seldom reaches 90 MPH anymore. He’s never been about the pumping fastballs, rather changing speeds and batters’ eye levels. This is why command is so important to his style and thus far the right-hander has not harnessed it. If he does not tonight, Weaver will fall to 13-10 all-time against Oakland.
Thou Gray is 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA in five career starts against the Halos, Weaver pitches with a great deal of confidence against the Athletics at home and has 1.84 ERA against them in Anaheim, which is the second-best home ERA among all active pitchers versus opponent with 10 or more starts. (Angels 7-5 record)
The betting value is with the Angels as underdogs and given Weaver’s history, but passing and just enjoying the two stud hurlers might be the best bet.
Grade – Incomplete (could go either way)