Thursday's Pitcher Report: Big Games & Top Hurlers Despite Short MLB Schedule

Doug Upstone

Thursday, July 23, 2015 2:47 PM GMT

Despite having a light schedule, there is ample reasons to be excited about today's card as a baseball handicapper when perusing the MLB odds. Three games leap off the page for anticipation.

Washington is at the suddenly slumping Pirates and Clayton Kershaw looks to deliver an encore performance in the Big Apple with the help of his Los Angeles teammates. Also, usually a makeup game is about as memorable as the news the Duggars are "heartbroken" over the cancellation of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting”, but this is no ordinary conflict, as it features the two best teams in baseball, Kansas City and St. Louis.

Here is your rundown and a MLB pick for each contest.

 

Nationals-Pirates: Fister vs. Liriano
Washington did what they needed to do and took the series over the New York Mets to extend their lead in the NL East to four games in the loss column. Pittsburgh returns home after doing the complete opposite, going 1-5 on the road trip and falling six games behind St. Louis in the NL Central.

Francisco Liriano (5-6, 2.98 ERA) will try to get his team back on track when they won 13 of 16 before the break. Liriano was held back from his scheduled start Saturday with a stiff neck, but threw Tuesday in the bullpen without incident and should be ready for one of the best home teams in the majors, with Pittsburgh 32-16 (+9.7 units) at PNC Park.

The Nationals will send Doug Fister (3-5, 4.30) to the slab and the last time he was two games below .500 was three years ago, as he has struggled all season with injuries and ineffectiveness. This has been particularly true on the road with a 5.13 ERA and Washington winning once in those five starts. However, facing the Bucs has been a different story with a 1.07 ERA in four shots against them.

Sportsbooks MLB betting odds have Pittsburgh as large -180 home favorite (Heritage was at -172 when I checked) to break out of their slump and we will agree with the Pirates 36-12 versus teams averaging 2.75 or less extra base hits per game this season.

Advantage - Liriano and Pittsburgh

 

Dodgers-Mets: Kershaw vs. Colon
For those who want to talk about Zack Greinke and his scoreless innings streak, that will have to wait until tomorrow. Today, an unassuming fellow named Clayton Kershaw (7-6, 2.68) will pitch for Los Angeles as they open a four-game series in New York.

You might remember after Kershaw and the Dodgers lost 4-0 to San Francisco on May 24th, his ERA was an unsightly 4.32. And since, the lefthander has displayed what we have come to expect with a 1.36 ERA in his last 10 starts. Against New York, Kershaw is 5-0 record and 1.58 ERA in eight starts. No wonder L.A. is -225 favorites in spite of the Mets being 32-14 (+15.6) at Citi Field.

Father Time might be finally catching up with Bartolo Colon (9-8, 4.86, with the 42-year right-hander posting a 6.18 ERA in his past five starts. What scouts have seen is a lack of movement on all his pitches, which has made his more hittable.

I would be careful with sports picks with the big number, knowing Kershaw and the Dodgers are 2-6 against NL teams with a team batting average of .250 or worse this season. Still, the Mets do not score and have not against the lefty either.

Slight Advantage - Kershaw and Los Angeles

 

Royals-Cardinals: Young vs. Lackey
The I-70 series resumes for a third time due to an earlier rainout and many in baseball think St. Louis and Kansas City could meet again in October. The Cardinals have the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.67 and part of this success goes to John Lackey (8-5, 2.90), who has a 1.63 ERA over his last seven starts. Tonight will be Lackey's 11th home start and he's 6-2 with a 1.91 ERA at Busch Stadium in 2015.

Kansas City Royals are a +130 road underdog with Chris Young (8-5, 3.03) and there has to be a little trepidation about the 6'10 righty who came out of his last start with back tightness. However, nothing to worry about Young in the road gray's, with a 1.73 ERA and the Royals 5-1 in those starts.

Though there is plenty to like about Kansas City being 9-4 as an underdog of +125 to +175, home teams typically have the edge in makeup games and Lackey is a bulldog with a 19-4 record in home contests in interleague action for his career. (Team's Record)

Advantage - Lackey and St. Louis