Cardinals at Reds – Free Pick Run Total July 15th

St. Louis Cardinals +108 at Cincinnati Reds -118 (Total: 9)

Jake Westbrook (7-7, 3.75 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.14 ERA)

The Reds have taken the first two games of this pivotal three game series, and look to complete the three game sweep tonight and push the Cardinals to 4 ½ games back in the NL Central race.  The challenge will be a little tougher for Cincinnati tonight, as Johnny Cueto, the originally scheduled starter, was scratched because of a blister on his pitching hand, forcing Homer Bailey up a day in the rotation.  This is the reason why this line has shrunk from the -155 Cincinnati opened at to the -118 at the time of this writing.

Oddly enough, that pitching change makes this game much more appealing to me from a wagering perspective.  With Cueto on the mound, I would feel pretty good about the Reds winning the ballgame and holding the Cards lineup in check for a third straight contest.  However, laying -155 is a little rich for my blood.  Now that the line has dropped to a more affordable +108/-118 decision, it is a game worth digging into a little bit.

For two games, the bats have been reasonably quiet in Great American Small Park, a place that is just twelve games away for the record for most consecutive games surrendering a homerun (the tally currently stands at 68, trailing Coors Field pre-humidor total of 80).  Now, with Cueto scratched and Homer Bailey and his lifetime .330 average allowed against current Cardinals, it stands to reason the National League’s second-best offense will wake up a bit tonight.

Another subtle factor playing tonight is the Reds bullpen, arguably as good as anyone in MLB and possessors of a 2.72 ERA, have thrown eight innings in the last two days.  Nearly every bullpen arm has been utilized, so some possible lack of sharpness could be evident tonight.  I think the Reds will score enough runs to make this game fun and possibly win, but I feel even more confident that the Cardinals will put up five or six and make them outscore them tonight.

All the statistical trends indicate this being an UNDER contest.  The Reds and Cards have stayed UNDER in 20 of their last 27 meetings, and six of Westbrook’s last eight starts.  However, sometimes a longer trend that extends back two full seasons simply serves to keep the line a little tighter than normal and provide some opportunities.   The UNDER is averaging -115, and I have seen it paying as little as -120.  That gives a little extra juice to the OVER, which I have found as good as -105.

I like some fireworks tonight and some good offense for the folks at ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew.  I see this one being a 6-5, 7-4 type ballgame.  Give me the OVER 9 as my official pick tonight.

Free Pick:  Run Total OVER 9 (-105)