Betting on baseball ain’t chess, it’s checkers. By that I mean, don’t overthink it. You should almost always go with the team that has the better starting pitcher, barring injuries for that team. With that said, here are three games I would recommend this weekend and it’s not a coincidence the games each involve one of the best pitchers in baseball.
MLB Picks For The Weekend
Twins at White Sox, Saturday
Chicago will be a big favorite behind the leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award in left-hander Chris Sale (6-0, 1.66). Last time out, Sale allowed one run on five hits and four walks while striking out six over 5.1 innings to earn the win last Sunday at the Orioles. Sale battled control issues and blew through 112 pitches before being removed in the sixth inning, but he left the contest with a five-run lead in a game the White Sox would win easily. He now has allowed one or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts.
Sale’s average fastball velocity is down nearly 2 mph from last year, at its lowest point since 2012. Usually that’s cause for concern. But Sale’s contact rate is up eight percentage points from last year, the single largest increase by any qualified starter from last year to the next. So essentially Sale is letting his defense help lessen the load this season. Sale hasn’t faced the Twins this season. He had a 1-4 record and 7.36 ERA against them last year, but throw that out.
Minnesota goes with Ervin Santana (0-1, 3.15). The Twins have lost all four of his starts this year. He hasn’t pitched since April 19 due to a back problem. Santana pitched a simulated game Tuesday and is on track to start Saturday. Take Chicago and the under.
Dodgers at Blue Jays, Sunday
It’s lefty Clayton Kershaw (3-1, 1.96) for Los Angeles. Kershaw was dominant in last Sunday’s start against San Diego, striking out 14 with no walks in a shutout in the 13th complete game of his career. He also drove in the game’s only run with a single to center field in the third inning. The last Dodgers pitcher to deliver a complete-game shutout and drive in the game’s only run was Fernando Valenzuela in 1984.
Kershaw was knocked around for five runs in his previous outing, but he rebounded superbly and delivered his best start of the season. Kershaw has allowed two runs or fewer in five of six starts and has struck out at least 10 batters in three straight
Marco Estrada (1-2, 2.64) pitches for Toronto. This is an interleague game so the Dodgers add the DH. Take L.A. and the under.
Nationals at Cubs, Sunday
The best pitcher on the planet right now is Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (6-0, 0.84) and he goes in the series finale. The reigning NL Cy Young winner threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five in Tuesday’s win against the Pirates. His only real trouble spot came in the first, when he issued consecutive walks to John Jaso and Andrew McCutchen. At one point, he retired 15 in a row. Arrieta was barely touched in the middle innings and exited after 99 pitches.
Arrieta is 22-1 with a 0.85 ERA in his past 26 regular-season starts. The Cubs have won 19 straight regular-season games in which Arrieta has started.
The Nationals counter with Tanner Roark (2-2, 2.35). He allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks over 7.1 innings in a no-decision Tuesday against the Royals. Roark had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 17.1 innings by an Alcides Escobar RBI single in the third inning. It’s the third game in a row Roark has pitched at least seven innings.