Though the baseball slate is limited for Thursday, baseball handicappers quickly realized it is sprinkled with three pitchers that are ranked in the Top 9 in the majors in earned run average.
That alone should set off wagering intrigue at sportsbooks with their MLB odds and whet the appetite of those constructing sports picks.
With two of the three on the road and the other a slight home favorite, what should you watch for from each?
Red-Sox vs. Rangers: Why is Nick Martinez and Texas such a Short Favorite?
The Rangers return home after a magnificent 7-2 road trip and have their ace to open four-game series with Boston. Nick Martinez (4-0, 1.96 ERA) is third in the AL in ERA and ninth in all off baseball and among three pitchers to not have a loss after making at least nine starts.
Though the Texas offense is good enough to be sixth in the league at 4.5 runs a game, they become super-charged when Martinez takes the ball, averaging 8.1 RPG which we found amazing this was only fourth overall. The right-hander is a groundball pitcher, keeping everything down in the zone and not registering many strikeouts with just 30 in 55 innings. However, he has tied the Rangers club record set 43 years ago with 15 consecutive starts having allowed three or fewer earned runs and could take sole possession of that mark tonight.
With how Texas has been playing and facing a rookie pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who is making his big league debut, I was somewhat surprised to see the Rangers go from a favorite to small underdog. Maybe Boston will be motivated after being swept by Minnesota but they are just 2-6 in last eight. Rodriguez comes in highly touted and was 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts with Triple-A, plus Texas for all their greatness on the road is 6-13 (-6.7 units) at home.
Still, Martinez as an underdog sounds too good to pass up for MLB picks.
Advantage – Martinez and Texas
Pirates vs. Padres: Pittsburgh Look to Continue Rolling with Burnett
The Pirates have won six in a row and is punishing the competition by outscoring them 35-9. One Pittsburgh starting pitcher participant has been A.J. Burnett (4-1, 1.37) who has the lowest qualifying ERA in the majors. The 38-year-old right-hander who plans to retire at season's end is going out in style. "I just look at leaving it all out on the field, knowing it's my last go around," Burnett said. "It's fun to pitch for (my teammates), to be around them. They bring so much out of me."
After receiving seven total runs in his first five starts (Pirates 1-4), Burnett has continued to pitch brilliantly and gotten 6.25 RPG in his past four outings, all victories.
Burnett had first start against San Diego way back in 1999 and is 2-3 with a 3.96 ERA in six starts over the last three seasons against the Padres. Wagerweb has the Bucs betting odds hovering around -120 and they will face Ian Kennedy (2-4, 6.11) who has yet to find a rhythm in 2015 and who has a massive 8.15 ERA in four Petco Park starts. Don’t surprised if the Pirates and Burnett pick up another W.
Advantage – Burnett and Pittsburgh
Braves vs. Giants: Atlanta 8-1 in Miller’s Starts
The St. Louis Cardinals do not make many mistakes as an organization, but trading away Shelby Miller (5-1, 1.50) to Atlanta looks a miscue. The most visible difference about Miller is his mound demeanor which is more relaxed and for whatever reason made an immediate connection with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who are working together better than Brooks and Dunn.
This will not be an easy assignment for Miller, who is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in three career starts versus San Francisco. The Giants are a scalding 19-7 this month and have taken nine of 12 against Atlanta. San Fran starter Chris Heston (4-3, 4.33) has been up and down, but like most young pitchers throws better at home where he has 2.77 ERA.
The Braves are +125 road underdogs and would seem to have a real chance if Miller continues to pitch the same way.
Slight Disadvantage – Miller and Atlanta