Friday kicks off a fresh slate of series across MLB, several with major division-leading implications. The Nationals and Braves link up for three this weekend with just a half game separating the division leaders. The Nats have had their share of difficulties against their division rivals in the past, but are hopeful that having their young ace, Stephen Strasburg, on the hill at home will bring a positive start to the crucial series.
Meanwhile, the Tigers stopped their massive slide yesterday, salvaging the fourth game of the series against the Royals to prevent a crushing four game sweep. Today they kick off another important division series against another surging foe, the Cleveland Indians. Can Scherzer and Verlander get back on track and right the ship in Detroit? It’s been a stunning freefall from 27-12 and the best record in the majors to 37-32 and a half game behind the Kansas City Royals. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the AL Central over the next few months.
Let’s get to today’s action and try to start the weekend off right by snapping a tough two-game skid (last night’s 1-0 Marlins loss to the Mets was a tough one to swallow).
Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Dodgers -102 at San Diego Padres -108 (Total: 6.5)
Dan Haren (7-4, 3.54 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (5-8, 3.72)
The Dodgers and all their drama dominate the headlines. But the bigger story of late is that this team is starting to come together and play pretty good baseball. They are finally relatively healthy and when their pitching staff is going well like it has of late, a lot of pressure is relieved from their heavily scrutinized offense.
Ian Kennedy will have his work cut out for him tonight with the Dodgers bats, even in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. He is 0-3 with a 6.36 ERA in his last four starts against the Dodgers. He has been hit or miss most of this season; he has an ERA over five in his last two starts, both losses. Prior to that he posted an ERA of just 2.00 in his previous three outings.
Dan Haren will get the ball for the Dodgers on the heels of one of the greatest pitching performances in MLB history in the Dodgers last game, thrown of course by Clayton Kershaw. The good news for Haren is that he shouldn’t have to be that perfect to fare well this evening against the Padres. They are batting an anemic .162 as a team this month and are averaging just 1.9 runs per game. And the sample size isn’t too small to be relevant; they are 5-12 over that 17 game span. That means for nearly a third of this season they have been one of the worst offenses in the history of baseball (if projected out over a full season).
I’ll take the dramatically better offense and the slight pitching edge with a really generous near even money line.