As the first-half of the pro baseball season comes to a close, clubs are hoping to enter the All-Star break on a high note. Unfortunately, others will end on a high note. On Sunday, five teams will hope to avoid sweeps and two of the squads will be at home. With some help from our VegasInsider.com handicappers, let’s take a look at all five matchups, starting with the primetime showdown on ESPN.
Mets at Dodgers (8:05 p.m. ET)
New York will be looking for a four-game sweep over Los Angeles when the pair square off at Chavez Ravine tonight. Looking at the pitchers, the early lean goes to Clayton Kershaw (5-4, 2.74 ERA) and the Dodgers over Dillon Gee (5-6, 4.42 ERA). Los Angeles has gone 10-6 with Kershaw on the mound this season, which includes a 6-3 mark at home. However, the team has dropped two straight and four of his last seven appearances. The issue hasn’t exactly been Kershaw, rather an offense that’s been awful and we’re being nice. Los Angeles has dropped seven straight and 11 of its last 12 games.
During this skid, the offense has put up a total of 15 runs and been blanked five times, including shutout losses to the Mets on Friday (0-9) and Saturday (0-5). New York did send out R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana the last two days and Gee isn’t in that class, which gives L.A. supporters a little hope. However, without Andre Ethier (oblique) and Matt Kemp (hamstring) in the lineup, can you really trust Los Angeles to wake up?
Kershaw has faced the Mets five times in his career and the southpaw has gone 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA. The Mets have gone 14-17 against lefthanders this season despite averaging 4.7 runs per game. The Mets are 1-5 in the last six starts with Gee on the mound, four of the losses by two runs or more. Against the Dodgers, Gee is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two career appearances.
The total on tonight’s matchup can be played at 6 or 6 ˝ runs, depending where you shop. Kershaw has seen the ‘under’ go 8-7 in his 15 starts, which includes a 5-3 mark at Dodger Stadium. The Mets have been a great ‘over’ bet on the road this season, connecting at a 69% (25-11) clip. Gee has certainly helped the cause, watching the ‘over’ go 11-3 in his 14 starts, 4-2 on the road.
Tonight’s home plate umpire is Tony Randazzo, who has produced leans toward the home team (10-6) and the ‘over’ (9-7) this season.
Marlins vs. Phillies (1:10 p.m. ET)
After a rough June for Miami (7-18), the Marlins closed the month strong with three wins, including two in a row over Philadelphia. The Phillies will send Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.87 ERA) up against the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 4.78 ERA) this afternoon. VI Expert Ed Meyer believes the Phillies will avoid the road sweep in South Florida. He explains his analysis below:
Nolasco beat the Phillies 5-4 as a 140 dog in Philadelphia on June 2. Here is a home favorite and he has not pitched well in this spot. The Marlins are 0-5 as a home favorite with Nolasco as a home favorite over a team they beat as a non-favorite in Nolasco’s last start against them. His last two starts in this spot have been complete disasters. He allowed nine runs on eight hits and four walks in three innings vs. the Diamondbacks as a 135 home favorite and topped that by allowing nine runs on nine hits and two walks in one and a third innings vs. the Padres as a 155 home favorite. In Nolasco’s last start, he allowed only one run in six-and-two-thirds, but the bullpen allowed 7 and the Fish lost 8-7. This is no reason to invest in him here, as the Marlins are 1-9 as a home favorite with Nolasco when they suffered a non-shutout loss in his last start. As a team the Marlins have adopted a defeatist attitude in this situation, as they are 2-18 at home when they blew a lead in their starter's last start and lost, as long as that starter allowed fewer than five runs in that loss. More importantly, Florida is 0-7 in this spot THIS season, and they were favored in six of the seven – four times they were more than a 160 favorite. The Phillies have won Blanton’s last four starts and he has personal revenge for a loss against Miami they last time he faced them. Philadelphia is a nice 27-13 with Blanton with they lost the last time he started vs. this opponent. After struggling against Buehrle and Johnson, the Phillies should be able to avoid the sweep versus Nolasco.
Pirates at Cardinals (2:15 p.m. ET)
Pittsburgh has been a tough team to figure out but the club is one-game behind Cincinnati for first place in the National League Central. The Cardinals hope to cool off the Pirates after getting blasted 14-5 and 7-3 in the first two games of this series. Handicapper Tom Freese believes St. Louis will avoid the home sweep and finally cash as a healthy favorite based on pitching. His analysis below:
The 40-38 Cardinals are at home for Game 3 of their series with the 42-35 Pirates on Sunday. Bedard (4-8) gets the call for Pittsburgh while Westbrook (6-6) gets the nod for St Louis. Bedard tosses his first pitch with an ERA of 4.27 giving up 37 earned runs in 78 innings of work while allowing 34 walks with 72 K's. The Pirates are 1-4 in Bedards last 5 starts and 0-4 in his last 4 starts as an Underdog. Also, 0-4 in his last 4 road starts. Bedard is 0-2 with a 7.05 ERA in his last 3 starts! On the flip side of the coin, Westbrook starts off with an ERA of 3.77 giving up 39 earned runs in 93 innings pitched allowing 25 walks with 59 K's. The Cardinals are 5-1 in their last 6 games when Westbrook starts with the total set at 9.0 to 10.5. Westbrook is 2-0 with an ERA of 2.14 in his last 3 starts! The Pirates struggle with Bedard on the Hill while the Cards with Westbrook have done pretty well as of late. Westbrook and the Cards win this game easily!
Cubs vs. Astros (2:20 p.m. ET)
Don’t look now but the Cubs have won four of five and are looking to sweep the Astros on Sunday. You should be surprised since Chicago has only swept one team, San Diego, all season. During its recent roll, Chicago has won three of four by two or more runs and Bruce Marshall feels that will continue this afternoon. His analysis below:
We pick our spots carefully with the Chicago Cubs. Not careful enough, perhaps, on Saturday, but we try it again on the Run Line vs. the Astros on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Cubs starter Travis Wood has been lights-out in his last two starts, allowing just one run on nine hits over 13 IP in wins over the Mets and White Sox. Now he faces a Houston team that is 9-27 on the road this season and has to hope starter Wandy Rodriguez reverses his recent shaky form (6.17 ERA in last six outings). Play Cubs on Run Line
Rangers vs. Athletics (7:05 p.m. ET)
Texas has been installed as a heavy favorite over Oakland as it looks to complete the four-game sweep. The Rangers’ Yu Darvish (10-4, 3.57 ERA) will counter the A’s lefthander Travis Blackley (1-2, 3.05 ERA). Texas has gone 16-9 against lefthanders this season, nine of the wins coming at home. Including the three wins this week, the home team has won seven of the nine encounters this season. The Rangers own the best record on Sunday this season, producing a 10-2 mark.
Chris David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org