MLB – Florida Marlins @ Tampa Bay Rays

The Marlins are struggling so bad right now, it’s almost an easy pick against them. They have lost 15 of their last 16 games, starting the month of June with a 31-23 record, and now falling to the bottom of the NL East with a 32-27 record.

On the mound for the Marlins tonight is rookie Brad Hand. This will be his third major-league start. He’s 0-2 (with losses against the Braves and the Diamondbacks). He looked better against the Braves, only allowing one hit – a home run – in six innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Against Arizona, he gave up three earned runs on five hits, with five walks and two strikeouts.

However, Tampa Bay played the Marlins already this year and lost two of the three-game set. They just lost two games to the Red Sox. Evan Longoria is slumping on offense, going 0 for 12 in his last four games, bringing his season batting average down to .237. It will be up to righty Wade Davis to get the win for Tampa. His career stats in interleague play are 0-3 with a 3.78 ERA. He faced San Diego, Atlanta and Arizona last season, allowing combined 15 hits and 7 earned runs. He only struck out 11 batters (only one against San Diego) and had allowed a two-run homerun to Geraldo Parra.

On the season, Davis is 5-5 with a 4.81 ERA. He last pitched on Sunday against Baltimore and got his first win since May 8 (also against Baltimore). He allowed five runs on eight hits, striking out three.

While Florida has the most interleague victories in the NL, they are likely only going to win one game in this three-game series. While it might occur tonight, they have a better chance with Nolasco pitching tomorrow. Take the Rays, but don’t call it a gimme.

Pick: Tampa Bay Rays

MLB – Pittsburgh Pirates (35-33) @ Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians hope that interleague play will be the cure to their slide as they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in game one of their weekend series.

The Cleveland Indians are out of first place in the American League Central as they trail the Tigers by a game. The Indians are 3-7 in their last 10 games, 20-12 at home this season, and five games over.500. As a team Cleveland is hitting .252 with Asdrubal Cabrera hitting .295, Michael Brantley hitting 281, and Orlando Cabrera hitting .251. As a team the Indians pitching staff has an ERA of 4.03 with the starters at 4.38 and the bullpen at 3.27. For game one against the Bucs Cleveland starts Josh Tomlin who has been their best pitcher this season. For the year Tomlin has allowed 78 hits and 38 earned runs while striking out 46 in 82.2 innings of work on the mound.

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to be baseball’s most improved team as they are quietly two games over .500 and well within striking distance in the NL Central. The Pirates have won four in a row, seven of their last 10, and are 20-15 on the road this season. The Pirates pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.51 with the starters at 3.61 and the bullpen at 3.29. For game one at Progressive Field Pittsburgh starts Kevin Correia who lost his last outing but who has been solid this year. For the season Correia has allowed 90 hits and 37 earned runs while striking out 41 in 89.1 innings of work.

Cleveland is 22-5 in their last 27 games as a favorite, 2-9 in their last 11 games against a right handed starter, and 9-1 in Tomlin’s last 10 home starts. Pittsburgh is 8-46 in their last 54 interleague road games, 4-0 in their last four games against a right handed starter, and 4-1 in Correia’s last five starts. Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings of these two but they are 1-5 in their last six games in Cleveland.

Cleveland isn’t playing their best baseball and while they are good at home, Pittsburgh is a team on the rise and playing at a high level and a nice value here.  I would not risk a high streak on this game as there are a few better choices.  I will give a small advantage to the Indians because they are at home.

Pick: Cleveland Indians

 

MLB – New York Yankees (39-28) @ Chicago Cubs (28-40)

The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs will meet in their third-ever interleague matchup beginning Friday with the first pitch scheduled for 11:20 a.m. (PT) at Wrigley Field.

The two clubs met at the historic ballpark back in 2003, as the Cubs captured the series winning two of three games.

New York has been a dominant force against the National League and has posted a winning record in interleague play since the 2000 campaign. The Yankees won two of three contests from the New York Mets earlier this year, outscoring them by a 17-8 margin in a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees offense has been clicking on all cylinders in the first two games without shortstop Derek Jeter, scoring a combined 24 runs leading into their series finale against the Rangers on Thursday. He will likely be missed over the weekend due to being baseball’s all-time interleague leader in hits (326), at bats (979) and runs scored (185).

Third baseman Alex Rodriguez will need to pick up the slack and enjoys his own success against opponents from the Senior Circuit, coming in as the all-time leader in interleague RBI (176) and ranking second in hits (274).

Veteran starter Freddy Garcia (4-5, 3.60 ERA) is making his 13th appearance (12th start) and is coming off his third win in four starts with a 9-1 home victory over the Indians.  Garcia has relished taking the mound in interleague play, registering a 21-9 record and 2.91 ERA.He is tied for the third-most interleague wins and second in ERA with a minimum of 30 such starts.

Since the 2005 season, he has lost just three times in the situation, posting a 9-3 record and 4.00 ERA.

The 34-year-old right-hander has a great chance of improving his 4-0 record and 1.47 ERA in six lifetime starts against the Cubs, limiting first baseman Carlos Peña to just four hits in 36 at-bats (.111).

Chicago dropped two of three games to Boston in its first taste of playing the American League this season. The Cubs’ pitching staff allowed 23 runs over the three-game series. The club owns a 99-109 all-time record against the AL since interleague play began in 1997, including an 8-10 mark last season.

Don’t expect the team’s record to improve against this weekend’s competition due to possessing a 5-14 record against winning teams in this format.

Left-hander Doug Davis (0-5, 5.90 ERA) will take the mound a seventh time for Chicago this season, looking for his first victory of 2011. The Cubs have lost all six of his previous outings, while providing just 13 runs of support.

Davis has compiled a 3-2 mark and 6.28 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees, but hasn’t faced them since June 14, 2007 in New York.  He will not miss Jeter’s presence in the lineup, as the Bronx Bombers captain has seven hits in 14 career at-bats against him. The veteran hurler has a good chance of putting together a quality start by limiting Robinson Cano, Rodriguez and Mark Texeira to just one hit in 15 combined plate appearances.

Look for the Yankees to keep rolling along as they blow into Chicago. Play NY Yankees.

Pick: New York Yankees