MLB – New York Yankees @ Cincinnati Reds

The Yankees have been playing good ball of late winning their fifth game in six contests, after beating the Cubs last night 10-4 at Wrigley.  The Yanks bats have been off the past few games, but the pitching has been very solid of late.  After being called up in 2010 for a limited number of appearances Ivan Nova has been a regular in the Yankees rotation. He has been a mix of good, bad and mediocre on the mound which is not completely unexpected given this is his rookie campaign to me.
Cincinnati finally solved Toronto in the series final’ by taking a 2-1 decision over the Blue Jays. The win gave the Reds a much needed boost as the team has won four of six overall to keep them in the mix with Milwaukee and St Louis in the National League Central race. One area of concern is that the Cincinnati offense which is one of the best in the game hasn’t been nearly as fearsome as advertised with only three games in the last ten where they’ve plated more than three runs which belies their reputation as a potent offensive squad. However, the less heralded pitching staff has actually risen to the occasion and kept the team competitive allowing four runs or less in ten consecutive contests. Just like their counterparts in tonight’s match up, the Reds are a handful when they get quality pitching with a high powered offense backing them. The Reds hand the ball to Johnny Cueto who despite just eight starts in 2011 has been the undisputed ace allowing no earned runs in four of his outings and comes in giving up an unearned run in 14 frames over two starts.
The Yankees are a scary offense that can hit the long ball and put runs on the board in bunches at any time. The Reds are almost a mirror reflection at the plate although New York has been the better hitting club coming in. Oddly both teams have been getting solid pitching which has almost been overshadowed by each team’s offense. Neither pitcher can relax in this one or they won’t be around long but I think Cincinnati has the edge on the mound and will need it. The Reds offense must get Cueto some support because as good as he’s been, stopping the Yanks bats is a tall order. I hate going against New York but I’m looking at Cueto to keep the score manageable and hoping Cincinnati scores some runs tonight.

Pick: Cincinnati Reds

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

MLB – Texas Rangers @ New York Yankees

MLB interest swings to the New York vs Texas battle on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees try to defend their home turf.

The Yankees will turn to Ivan Nova and his 5-3 record as they look for a win in this one, while the Rangers send Derek Holland (5-1) to the hill.

Having won four of five following a three-game skid, New York will try to continue its success against Rangers starter Derek Holland (5-1, 4.41 ERA).

The left-hander is 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four career regular-season starts against the Yankees, although he did earn a win in relief in Game 4 of last October’s AL championship series. He’s 0-2 with a 7.80 ERA in three career appearances in the Bronx.
When it comes to getting on base, the visiting Rangers rank No. 4 in the American League at 8.9 hits per game. That compares with New York’s No. 9 ranking in that category.

Defensively, Texas features the American League’s No. 1-rated defense on the road, allowing 3.4 runs per game. New York, meanwhile, comes in at No. 3 in the American League at home, scoring 5.1 runs per game.

Texas didn’t get the job done in their last match, falling 12-4 to New York on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

Texas Rangers Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 6-4
Before playing NY Yankees are 4-6
After playing NY Yankees are 4-6
After a loss are 6-4

New York Yankees Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 5-5
Before playing Texas are 4-6
After playing Texas are 5-5
After a win are 6-4

The Yankees have rebounded from that very bad series with the Red Sox, but they’re in for a tough game tonight against improving Derek Holland.  I like the Yankees to win because of their success against Holland, but I would not risk a high streak in this contest there are a few better picks tonight.

Pick: New York Yankees

MLB – Cincinnati Reds @ Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley has to be happy to see the Cincinnati Reds again, this time at Chavez Ravine.

Billingsley looks to help the Dodgers avoid being swept at home by the Reds for the first time in more than seven years when they meet Wednesday afternoon for the final time in 2011.  Billingsley (5-5, 4.13 ERA) tossed five effective innings and helped himself with a homer and bases-loaded walk on his way to a career-best three RBIs in the Dodgers’ 9-6 win June 5 in Cincinnati.

On offense, it’s a battle between Los Angeles and its National League No. 11-rated batting order, averaging 3.9 runs per nine innings, against the National League’s No. 1 lineup of the Reds at 4.9 runs per outing.

Los Angeles owns the National League’s No. 8 defense, allowing 4.3 men per game to cross the plate. That contrasts with Cincinnati’s National League No. 14-rated defense.

The Reds were a 3-2 winner in their most recent outing on the road against the Dodgers. Cincinnati got the job done in their last match in a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium behind starter Johnny Cueto.

Cincinnati Reds Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 5-5
Before playing Toronto are 2-7
After playing LA Dodgers are 4-6
After a win are 3-7

Los Angeles Dodgers Trends:
When playing on Wednesday are 4-6
Before playing Houston are 6-4
After playing Cincinnati are 5-5
After a loss are 6-4

LA Dodgers are 13-4 SU in their last 17 games when playing at home against Cincinnati.  I like the Dodgers this afternoon as I do not see them getting swept by the Reds.

Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB – Boston Red Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays (35-31) continue to stay competitive in the tough AL East division as they play host to the red hot Boston Red Sox (39-26).  The Boston Red Sox are 20-13 on the road this season will put Tim Wakefield on the mound in this game two match up.  Wakefield has made six starts this season, going 3-1 with a 4.89 ERA and posting a .246 opponents’ batting average.  He has faced Tampa Bay many times (20-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 220+ innings).  Johnny Damon (.313 average) and Evan Longoria (.462 average) are the only two Rays with good number against Wakefield.  The Red Sox are 0-2 vs the Rays this season, but they played very early in the season when the Sox were struggling.

The Tampa Bay Rays are 14-16 at home this season and on the mound Tuesday for the Rays is James Shields who is 5-4 with a 2.85 ERA and he owns a 2.38 ERA at Tropicana Fields this season.  Shields is only 5-9 with a 5.17 ERA against Boston in his career.  David Ortiz and Dustin Pedoria have owned Shields with a combined average of .388 with 5 home runs and 15 RBIs.

Both starters have a good chance of having a quality start but I am giving the edge to the Boston Red Sox in this matchup.  The Sox are just killing teams in this stretch. They’ve scored at least five runs in all nine games and at least eight runs in six of the nine. As a result, they’re up to 5.38 runs per game this year, tops in the big.  They also rank No. 1 in team batting average (.276) and team OPS (.799), and No. 2 in the league in home runs (77).

Pick: Boston Red Sox

MLB – Tampa Bay Rays (35-30) at Detroit Tigers (35-30)

The 35-30 Detroit Tigers take on the 35-30 Tampa Bay Rays for one day to complete an end-of-May series at Comerica Park after both teams finished up series’ on Sunday.

Detroit was surprised by the visiting 34-32 Seattle Mariners who garnered a four-game split while Tampa Bay fought off the 30-33 Baltimore Orioles twice in a row after dropping the opener at Camden Yards.

Detroit beat Tampa Bay twice at Comerica Park last month 6-3 and 7-6. The weather didn’t allow three games to be played so as a result we have the continuance of that May 23-25 series.

The Tigers are still hot winning 10 of their last 14 after falling in three straight immediately following May 25’s postponement. As for the Rays since May 14 when they were 23-15, things have turned for the worse until last Saturday at Seattle. Tampa Bay has won six of their last eight games to start feeling good about themselves again. A three-game slide to begin June slowed any momentum they were seizing at home.

On the road the Rays have been average of lately going an atrocious 2-8 before sweeping all three at the 31-35 Los Angeles Angels and taking two of three at the Orioles. 1-0 Alex Cobb with a 4.24 ERA will try to keep the road wins coming. After two no-decisions at home, Cobb allowed seven hits, but just one run during 6.1 innings of a 4-1 win in LA.

If he’s able to pitch well against Detroit then 1-6 Phil Coke better bring his “Best game.” With a 4.11 ERA Coke has been in the wrong clubhouse this season and the Tigers are 4-8 when he goes in games and 3-6 when he starts. Coke pitched a limited 3.1 innings on May 23 against Tampa Bay suffering a right ankle injury. Not helping matters I am sure was a 27-minute rain delay which had to effect both teams some. Detroit won 6-3 while Coke shedded two hits and one run during limited action.

For his first start since hurting himself, the 36-31 Texas Rangers roasted Coke for 10 hits, six runs, four earned, during five innings. He also walked three batters during the road affair. Coke’s had a lot more experience in away games this year than at home. At Comerica Park he’s just 1-1 throwing 14.1 innings during three starts. The 28-37 Kansas City Royals kicked in two runs while the Mariners mopped seven runs in during 4.1 innings. Seattle dialed in six runs, two earned, one start earlier for Coke.

This should be a close game but I give a small edge to the Tampa Bay Rays because I just do not trust Phil Coke in this spot.

Pick: Tampa Bay Rays