If you are a fan of baseball, this time of year these are the games you are looking for, ones that really matter. Baseball handicappers have to study the MLB odds closer to make sure nothing is missed.
Tonight we have three very important matchups which need a great deal of scrutiny, two in the National League and one in interleague action and we will attempt to determine how each team and their starting pitcher will perform and offer MLB picks and seek to improve on 41-27 record the past three-plus weeks.
Pirates vs. Cardinals: Locke vs. Martinez
The Pittsburgh Pirates sit four games behind St. Louis in the loss column for the lead in the NL Central and have the third-best record in the majors. At this juncture, catching the Cardinals is still a priority, because teams while they can still get to the World Series as a wild card team, the one and done format is a slippery slope. (Example - Oakland last season)
Pittsburgh has the best record in the big leagues since May 9th at 52-28, but they have only managed to pick up 3.5 games on the Cards. Jeff Locke (6-6, 4.31 ERA) will attempt to dig into the Redbirds lead and he is 2-3 with a 3.55 ERA against St. Louis and will have to keep his fastball down and have his excellent changeup working to contain Cardinals hitters.
The Cards will counter with Carlos Martinez (11-4, 2.57) who has electric stuff, but has seen mixed success against the Bucs at 1-1 with a 5.31 ERA in three starts.
The sportsbooks betting odds have St. Louis at -160 (Heritagesports.eu is down to -152), as the Cardinals have a starting pitching edge, own the best home record in baseball at 40-16 (+17.4 units) and have won 17 of 20 at Busch Stadium over Pittsburgh (playoffs included). With Martinez and his team is 15-1 vs. a NL team with an on-base percentage .325 or worse this season, the Cards get the call for sports picks.
Advantage - Martinez and St. Louis
Astros vs. Giants: Kazmir vs. Bumgarner
Both Houston and San Francisco has stumbled lately, the Astros are 1-6 on this road trip, as its offense has gone as cold as back of the freezer chicken nuggets at 2.8 runs per game. The Giants have to thrilled to be back in the Bay Area after a 3-7 road trip, losing the last four to the Cubs.
Each really needs a victory to regain confidence and they have top tier pitchers to enhance their chances. Scott Kazmir (6-6, 2.08) did not receive much run support when pitching with Oakland this season accounting for his pedestrian record. Kazmir will make his fourth start in a Houston uniform and he is 1-1 with a 0.44 ERA for his new club and 2-1 with a 0.45 ERA in his last six overall.
Madison Bumgarner (12-6, 3.28) will try and end the Giants losing streak and further close the gap on the Dodgers, being closer to them than the wild card presently. Bumgarner has established himself as a big game pitcher and has won four of the past five while posting a 1.80 ERA in the victories.
Oddsmakers have made San Francisco a -140 favorite, having won eight of nine at home, with Houston spiraling out of control on the road at 8-27 in last 35 making the home team the correct choice for MLB picks.
Advantage - Bumgarner and San Francisco
Nationals vs. Dodgers: Ross vs. Greinke
The combination of Gio Gonzalez and weariness was more than the Dodgers could overcome as they fell to a fourth consecutive defeat on Monday. Los Angeles players will wake feeling much better today after spending a night in their own beds and knowing Zack Greinke (11-2, 1.71) will be their pitcher tonight. The right-hander has the lowest ERA in the big leagues and on the rare occasion he does not have his best stuff like last week in Philadelphia (six runs allowed in six innings), all he does is go 3 for 3 at the plate with a home run to help his cause.
Washington was released as +170 road underdog and is now under +150. Why, the name is Joe Ross (3-3, 2.80), who has taken Doug Fister's spot in the rotation. The 22-year old rookie has an incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.75, which is the best for any first year pitcher not from this century, but dating back to the beginning of the previous one (1900) if they have worked at least 45 innings. (Thanks Elias Sports)
While Ross has the makings of a star pitcher, Greinke is 17-1 at home versus a NL team with an on-base percentage .315 or worse in the second half of the season in his career and is a perfect 10-0 if his team is off two or more consecutive losses the last two seasons. (Team's Record)
Advantage - Greinke and Los Angeles