Once the lights come up, four serious teams from the senior circuit will be action and we have looked over the sportsbooks MLB odds and have formulated our opinions on these important clashes.
What baseball handicappers and those putting together sports picks are looking is how will Pittsburgh perform, will Washington win again and will San Francisco continue to haunt St. Louis and take another series against them?
Let's man the shovels and start digging for answers.
DiamondBacks vs. Pirates: Pittsburgh Favored, Happ is No Bargain Against Snakes
The Pirates knew Arizona was not going to be a pushover, being better than anticipated all year and they have arguably the best all-around player in the NL in Paul Goldschmidt, along with a few other talented individuals.
However, the Diamondbacks are providing more than just stiff competition, having beaten Gerrit Cole in the opener scoring five total runs in the eighth and nine innings against the Pirates bullpen to tie the game at 8-all last night, before falling by a run in 15 frames.
This could mean Bucs starter J.A. Happ (4-7, 4.68 ERA) will be on an island having to fend for himself with the relievers depleted (The same is also true for the D-Backs Robbie Ray (3-8, 3.29)) and with a 7.62 ERA in past three outings, this cannot be a pleasant thought for Pittsburgh who is trying to catch St. Louis while fending off the Chicago Cubs at the same time.
Nevertheless, this is late season baseball and if Happ wants to earn the respect of his new teammates, this is ideal game to have a stud performance. The latest betting odds have the Pirates at -160 (WagerWeb still at -151 at last peek) and they are a solid 13-9 against left-handed starters and the Snakes rookie left-hander is 0-4 with a 5.06 ERA in his previous six starts. Also, here is an ugly number on Ray - he's 0-11 versus teams averaging 0.9 or less homers a game the last two seasons. (Team's Record)
Advantage - Happ and Pittsburgh
Giants vs. Cardinals: St. Louis Having No Easy Time with Giants
How good have the Cardinals been at home this season? If they win tonight they would finish the homestand at 6-3 which is BELOW their season-long win percentage of 70.3, thanks to an incredible 45-19 record. St. Louis is 11-2-1 in home series since losing to Detroit in mid-May. Yet, these are the San Francisco Giants, who you have to beat, because they seldom are going to beat themselves.
The Cards are -175 favorites behind Jamie Garcia (5-4, 1.57), who has a 1.37 ERA since returning from the DL four starts ago, allowing four earned runs and 14 hits in 26 1/3 innings. The lefty has also been able to keep San Francisco off-balance with a 1.78 ERA in seven career starts.
Matt Cain (2-3, 6.05) is nowhere close to the workhorse he used to be and according to unconfirmed reports out of the Bay Area, another lousy showing might mean he's headed to the bullpen and out of the rotation. San Fan is gritty group, but the Redbirds are 21-6 after a loss by two runs or less and get the nod for MLB picks.
Advantage - Garcia and St. Louis
Nationals vs. Rockies: Will Washington's Offense Have to Carry Strasburg?
The Nationals finally exploded offensively, plating 15 times in ending their six-game losing streak. Finishing it off against the worst pitching staff in the majors in Colorado is really not a surprise and they will take their cuts against Jorge De La Rosa (7-5, 4.75) tonight. The Rockies lefty has joined his fellow teammates in pitching poorly at Coors Field with a 6.62 ERA, which is out of character for him since he was at 45-14 with a 4.00 mark at home the last seven seasons.
Stephen Strasburg (6-6, 4.62) has looked good since coming off the DL again, with 2.08 ERA in two starts, fanning 20 in 13 innings of work. Washington is a -145 away favorite, but given Strasburg's brittleness and being 0-2 with a 5.56 when throwing at the foothills of the Rockies is a cause for concern.
This is a very difficult decision with Colorado 1-10 with a struggling bullpen whose ERA is over 6.00 the last 15 games and De La Rosa 9-2 as a home underdog of +100 or higher since 2013. (Rockies Record) Given De La Rosa home issues and their pen, a bit of lean with the Nats.
Slight Advantage - Strasburg and Washington