We took one on the chin yesterday with the D’Backs getting oddly blanked by the streaking Marlins, which kept the total well under the 7.5 run threshold. We’ve been pretty hot the last three weeks, so we will try to get back on track and start the weekend off right with a nice Friday winner.
Meanwhile, the Cubbies started the weekend early in grand fashion with a commanding 5-2 win over the Nationals. Chicago threw up eight innings of zeros before a Jayson Werth ninth inning homer dented the scoring. The most impressive thing about the Cubs isn’t their relentless offensive onslaught; they’ve scored at least five runs in 11 of their last 13 games, and have only been held below three TWICE this entire season, which is impressive for sure, but the MOST impressive thing is how easily they are winning even when Arrieta or Lester aren’t on the mound. Yesterday was Kyle Hendricks’s turn for domination. And today it could very well be John Lackey, though he has a tough matinee opponent in Max Scherzer.
The most interesting takeaway from yesterday’s game for me wasn’t the Cubs winning, or even winning relatively easily. It is that Bryce Harper was on base all four times, scored one of the only two runs crossing on Werth’s homerun, and he did all this by lacing just a lone single and walking. So are teams going to give him the Barry Bonds treatment in big games? It’s clear the Cubs wanted no part of Harper and were more than content to deal with Zimmerman and Murphy (I guess I’m not alone in assuming Daniel Murphy’s .382/.432/.636 slash line will regress mightily…) I’m interested to see how Lackey goes after (or IF) Harper this afternoon…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Philadelphia Phillies +118 at Miami Marlins -128 (Total: 7)
Vince Velasquez (4-1, 1.41 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.26 ERA)
The Phillies have dropped three of four, but I doubt many fans are too disappointed with their 16-13 overall record. For a team that led the majors in losses the last few years, anything APPROACHING .500 is enormous and unexpectedly-rapid progress.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have put a dismal start in the rear view mirror to surge back to 15-12, helping make the National League East, to this point, easily the best division in baseball. The Fish are hitting and getting good starting pitching and enter today winners of three straight and nine of their last ten.
But you know the saying, momentum is only as strong as the next day’s starting pitcher. And the Phillies have an underrated good one hurling tonight. Velasquez has been dynamite this season, and I don’t think it is a fluke. Not only has he failed to surrender runs, he is also missing bats and keeping people off base. His .161 batting average against trails only the mythical Jake Arrieta. The Phillies expected Velasquez to be a big part of the rotation in the future, but I think the 23-year old has surprised a few folks with how quickly he appears ready to excel on the big league level. I am frankly surprised he is the underdog tonight, even with how hot Miami is right now given the obvious starting pitching edge tonight.
Chen has been good in the big leagues and is a serviceable major league starter. His stats are a little deceiving, given that he allowed five runs in five innings in his first start. His ERA has lowered in every outing since. He has four consecutive quality starts, but all look nearly the same; about 6.2 innings, three runs allowed and 5K’s with a walk or two. Never bad. But also never dominant.
So, if Velasquez IS dominant and he has held opponents scoreless in three of his five starts, the edge goes to the Phillies. It’s enough for me to jump on, given the plus-money line advantage.