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Nationals at Giants Pick MLB – May 21st + Bonus Pick

Let’s get back on the winning track tonight with a pair of baseball picks to highlight the Tuesday schedule.

Today’s Free MLB Picks:

Chicago Cubs +133 at Pittsburgh Pirates -139 (Total: 8)

Matt Garza (0-0, —) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25 ERA)

Matt Garza will make his anticipated season debut tonight in Pittsburgh, and the Cubs are thrilled to have him back.  The season hasn’t been great, but with the amount of one-run losses they’ve suffered, it isn’t impossible as a Cubs fans to convince yourself you aren’t THAT far away from being a competitive team.  Especially if Garza can come back to be the 1-2 punch a top the rotation with Jeff Smardzjia, all of a sudden…

Ok, perhaps that is getting a bit ahead of things.  But I do expect him to pitch well tonight in his return to action.  Pittsburgh will be sending out veteran Wandy Rodriguez, who is having an excellent season so far in 2013.  His 3.25 ERA is more than solid, and the Pirates have to be thrilled with the performance of this longtime NL Central veteran.  However, in his career he has historically struggled against the Cubs (most of that time with the Astros), so perhaps we have a sneaky favorable underdog line tonight.

At +133 it feels like a good gamble to me.  Although a little more than usual could be demanded from the sometimes-shaky Cubs bullpen, given that Garza won’t likely be stretched past the 6th, I like them to touch up Rodriguez for a few early runs and give him a little cushion.

Free Pick:  Chicago Cubs to WIN +133

Washington Nationals +106 at San Francisco Giants -115 (Total: 7)

Stephen Strasburg (2-5, 2.83 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (3-2, 5.43 ERA)

This is easy the marquee game on the MLB slate tonight, and it should be a excellent treat for anyone on the East Coast willing to stay up for the duration.  Strasburg’s difficulties have been well-chronicled, and probably somewhat overblown.  Yes, he has only two wins – far from the Cy Young numbers most fans were expecting.  And YES – the pressure is even more focused on him because of management’s controversial decision to shut him down before the postseason last year as a precautionary measure to prevent against injury… but he hasn’t been “bad” this season.  In fact, he’s been far from it.  His 2.83 ERA is fifteenth in the NL, ahead of Cliff Lee, Mat Latos, Lance Lynn and Jeff Samardzjia.  His 55 strikeouts are 12th and his 1.12 WHIP ranks 15th.

All in all, Strasburg has been just fine, and getting better every start.  His last three outings he has posted a 2.25 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.93.  He is going to be FINE everyone.  Deeeeep breaths.

Meanwhile, Matt Cain, has been far worse than Strasburg, albeit a little more under the radar.  His 5.43 ERA is among the worst for NL starters, though his 3-2 record isn’t nearly as punishing.

If I can get plus-money AND Strasburg pitching the way he has the last three weeks, I am inclined to take the value.  This could be a great game tonight, but whether or not Cain holds up his end of the bargain remains to be seen.  I am confident Strasburg will.

Free Pick:  Washington Nationals to WIN +106