For a trio of teams, they are coming off either an exceptional weekend or week and now baseball handicappers studying the MLB odds have to determine if this will continue beginning today.
Two of the clubs enjoyed their success at home, while another continues on the road, in what is a very big week for them. My job today is to determine if their starting pitcher and his teammates will come through for MLB picks. Continue readying as I'm 27-15 the last two weeks for these sports picks.
Cubs vs. Pirates: Cubs Look To Keep Building in Steel City
When the season is all said and done, it might be this week which will determine if the Chicago Cubs are a playoff team or just a team still learning to win. After taking a four-game series at Milwaukee, the Cubs will try and make six wins in a row at Pittsburgh. Chicago trails the Pirates by four games in the loss column at present and surpassing them would possibly allow them to host a wild card game. Besides this three-game series, the Cubs have four games with the World Series champs San Francisco, whom they are tied with for the final playoff spot. First things first.
As I have mentioned on these pages before, Jon Lester (6-8, 3.26 ERA) was brought to the Windy City to be the ace of Joe Maddon's staff and since July has looked like one. Lester has pitched at least seven innings in all six starts with a 1.66 ERA (Cubs 3-3 record), but only once has seen a many as four runs from teammates.
Nevertheless, this is big game hurlers have to be better than the opposing pitcher, which in this case is Francisco Liriano (7-6, 2.92) and he's 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA over his last five outings.
With the Pirates having the fourth-best home record in baseball at 35-17 (+11.4 units), the visiting Cubs MLB odds are +120 road underdogs (WagerWeb is at +125). Chicago has won six of 10 this season, but it 8-16 at PNC Park in recent years. Using the Cubs for sports picks is tempting but the Bucs have the better bullpen and Chicago is 12-26 after allowing four runs or less in four straight games since 2013.
Slight Disadvantage - Lester and Chicago
Mets vs. Marlins: Mets Out to Avoid Another Road Calamity
New York has moved within a game of Washington in the loss column at the top of the NL East by sweeping the Nationals over the weekend at home. This caused baseball pundits to sing the praises of the Mets and their pitching if they were to make the postseason.
This is all well and good to jump on the bandwagon, but true sports analysts look at the whole picture.
New York opens a six-game road trip in the Sunshine State this week beginning in Miami and there is nothing sunny about the Mets 17-32 (-13) away record. Sportsbooks have moved New York from +105 underdogs to -115 road favorites against the miserable Marlins who are 2-7 in their last nine.
Bartolo Colon (9-10, 4.96) is manager Terry Collins starter, but for how much longer is debatable as he's 0-6 with a 6.16 ERA in his last seven trips up the mound. Tom Koehler (8-7, 3.38) takes the ball for Miami and he owns a 1.91 ERA in five career home starts against these division rivals. Going to give a small edge to the Marlins because New York is brutal on the road and having to travel off a big series sweep and might be flat for the opener.
Slight Disadvantage - Colon and New York
Astros vs. Rangers: Astros Cross the Lone Star State to Face Rangers
It was all Houston could have hoped for this past week, sweeping the L.A. Angels to knock them out of first place and taking series against Arizona, while the Halos meltdown continued to give them a working margin in the AL West.
Now the Astros have to prove their worth on a nine-game road excursion beginning in Arlington, where Texas nearly swept San Francisco. Houston like the Cubs bottomed out and rebuilt the farm system and is enjoying the fruits of their labor, being in first place with the third-best record in the AL.
Since starting 12-4 away from H-Town, the Astros have plummeted in road games and are 10-24. Tonight's starter Lance McCullers (5-3, 2.48) is 0-3 with a 3.81 ERA over his last five road outings, all Houston setbacks.
Texas is 14-7 the past three seasons at home against the Astros and their starting pitcher Colby Lewis (11-4, 4.42) is 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) against Houston, including six straight decisions.
Houston might be a -123 favorite, but Lewis and the Rangers are 8-2 versus winning teams this season and draw my support.
Disadvantage - McCullers and Houston