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Reds at Giants – NLDS Game One Free Pick

Cincinnati Reds +108 at San Francisco Giants -117 (Total: 6.5)

Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA)

The playoffs return to the Bay Area tonight, and the matchup is about as even as it can possibly get.  Both teams will throw their aces on normal rest, both aces have been pitching lights-out the last month, and both teams have offenses that could use a bit of a wakeup call.  That is probably the reason why the line is so tight in every sportsbook and casino.  So which team has the edge tonight?  Let’s dig inside some numbers and trends and see what we can find…

Let’s start with the pitching matchups.  As you can see from the above numbers, their stats are nearly dead even.  Cain has a slightly lower WHIP (1.04 to 1.17) while Cueto has the edge in allowing fewer homeruns (15 to 21) and has an incredible knack for controlling the running game on the bases (only one successful steal against for a 10% success rate, while Cain has allowed 18 for a 67% success rate).  Do not discount this as a potential factor in a tight ballgame.

Offensively, it might surprise some folks given each team’s reputation and perception, but the Giants have a much higher team batting average (.263 to .246).  However, the Reds make up the difference with a huge advantage in long balls (1.1 per game compared to just 0.6).  This is somewhat a factor of the home ballparks, but also a true sign that the Giants lineup is a tad power deficient.

Head to head this season, the teams have played relatively evenly.  The Reds hold a 4-3 edge (including the odd loss when Jay Bruce dropped a two-out fly ball in extra innings to lead to a bizarre walk-off win for the G-Men).  The Reds hold a 28-21 run differential advantage in the seven games.

The most interesting stat to me is that the Reds are 2-0 this season facing Matt Cain.  Not many teams in the bigs (in fact no other) can boast that.  For whatever reason, they have not had significant trouble against the All Star starter, scoring eight runs in thirteen innings and belting four homeruns.  Cueto meanwhile has pitched well in AT&T Park, allowing just two runs in his thirteen innings against the Giants.

Both pitchers have the potential to dominate, but given the way they have pitched against the opponent, I’d give the slight edge to Cueto tonight.  Add in the fact that the Reds are getting plus-money, and it makes them an attractive wager.  Give me Cincy to steal Game One and take control of their NLDS series.

Free Pick:   Cincinnati Reds to WIN +108