I have always contended that home field advantage means far less in baseball than it does in other major American sports. NFL? It’s life-changing. NBA? How often does a team lose a Game Seven on their home floor? But in baseball? It doesn’t matter all that much…
But this season I started to backtrack off that long-held philosophy just a bit. After all, six teams won more than 50 games at home this season and teams like the Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Astros were radically different teams home vs. road.
Then this season’s playoffs started with ALL four games being won by the road team, two of them in the aforementioned stadiums, and my theory is back in full effect. There is a randomness to the baseball playoffs more than any other sport. So who will emerge from the Divisional Series Round? Let’s dive into some analysis of today’s games.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Houston Astros +125 at Kansas City Royals -135 (Total: 7.5)
Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto
Two trade-deadline acquisitions square off today in a battle to justify the hefty price tags paid for their services. Both looked like nice injections of talent into the roster through their first few weeks. Neither has lived up to expectations in the months since. SO who has the edge today?
Kazmir was just 2-6 with a 4.19 ERA in eleven starts with the Astros. However, he did post a 1-1 record with a 2.12 ERA against the Royals in three starts this season. Meanwhile, Cueto has easily endured the worst stretch of his consistently excellent career. He is 4-7 with a 4.67 ERA in thirteen starts for KC. More alarming, hitters are batting a robust .307 against him, compared to a .191 average against with Cincinnati. That’s a chasm so wide that mechanics can’t completely explain it; some of it was/is mental. So is Johnny Beisbol over his struggles? His last four starts were promising, going 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA.
I have a feeling Cueto will come up big today. He has great stuff, and aside from Colby Rasmus (former Cardinal) most of this lineup hasn’t had many at bats against him. He has been much sharper lately, and though it is also possible to bring up his famous postseason meltdown two years ago in Pittsburgh, I think the experience will help him handle the pressure today.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to keep the Royals bats quiet for long. The scuffled last night against McHugh, but they know full well they need to make some hay against Kazmir to avoid seeing Kuechel down 0-2 in Houston on Sunday. Kazmir is 0-1 with an ERA just over 10.00 in his last three starts. I was curious if the ‘Stros would even give him the ball today, but apparently AJ Hinch sees something in the past performance against the Royals. I think he’ll regret that call. Look for KC to get on the board early and for Cueto to settle into a decent groove. I like the Royals to tally six or seven runs tonight and even up the series. I’m taking them at -135 to WIN, but am not opposed to the more adventurous runline play which juices the payday up to +155.