It's a given that Don Best Sports analyst Pat Williams is going to mention Wednesday's matchup in St. Louis between the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds at least twice in the next 24 hours.
He'll discuss the mound duel between Mat Latos and Jaime Garcia and how Busch III has been a nightmare for Latos in a short sample, but a dreamy venue for Garcia. It will be noted how important this series is to the early race in the NL Central, and that it's crucial for the Reds not to let the Cardinals get too far in front.
For my money, however, the game doesn't rate in the top 4 pitching battles on Wednesday's MLB betting card. Make that top 5, which are below.
Braves Host Mets In Getaway Game
The New York Mets apparently didn't read any of the preseason predictions that mostly saw an NL East basement finish. New York moved to 7-3 on the young campaign with Monday's 6-1 win in the series opener at Atlanta as +150 underdogs, and was set to send Johan Santana to the mound Tuesday against the Braves' Randall Delgado in a game that was very close to a pick on the MLB odds board.
Wednesday's matinee at Turner Field is a rematch on the mound from a contest in New York a couple of Saturdays ago, as RA Dickey meets Jair Jurrjens once again. Dickey helped pitch the Mets past the Braves, 4-2, cashing on an even-money underdog line and snapping a string of three consecutive starts vs. Atlanta in which the Mets lost.
This is a crucial outing for Jurrjens who couldn't finish the fifth in that April 7 start and has allowed four homers in his first 9-1/3 innings this season. Jurrjens has missed parts of the past two seasons with knee trouble and suffered through an inconsistent spring in which he walked 12 and was hit for a .303 average in 26+ innings. If not for one good outing against the Astros' 'B' squad, those numbers would have been even worse.
Heavyweights Battle In Boston, San Fran
Two big pitching duels will take place on opposite sides of the Lower 48 as the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox play the middle match of their 3-game series at Fenway Park while the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants close their set at AT&T Park.
The Phils got their series in San Fran rolling with a win Monday as short chalk behind Roy Halladay. Tim Lincecum's struggles continued for the Giants with a 6-IP, 5-ER outing. Tuesday's second game had San Francisco laying -145 behind Madison Bumgarner who just agreed to a new 6-year contract that will run through the 2017 season.
Wednesday's finale pits both team's "second aces" as Cliff Lee will oppose Matt Cain. The Phils are 0-2 behind Lee in 2012, but the lefty has complete game victories in each of his last two regular season outings vs. San Francisco, one a shutout last August at AT&T Park. He lost both of his 2010 World Series assignments against the Giants while pitching for Texas. Cain is coming off a complete game, 1-hit blanking of the Pirates last Friday at home, and is 1-2 with a 1.29 ERA in his three most recent regular season starts vs. Philadelphia.
ESPN2 will broadcast Wednesday's battle between the Rangers and Red Sox (7:00 p.m. ET). Texas is scheduled to send Derek Holland to the mound against Boston's Josh Beckett. This will be the first road assignment for Holland after the Rangers split the southpaw's two starts at home to begin the campaign. He's 2-1 in three career starts vs. Boston (2.95 ERA), going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in his two appearances at Fenway. Beckett bounced back from a pounding in Detroit with a nice 8-IP, 5-hit effort in Boston last Friday to beat Tampa Bay. He got the best of the Rangers in his only start against them last year, a 13-2 Boston win in Arlington.
The series opened Tuesday with Boston -120 behind Jon Lester who was opposing Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis with an 8½-run total.
Will Price Be Right In Toronto?
The AL East started play Tuesday with all five teams packed within two games of each other, leaving a lot riding on the 3-game series in Toronto between the Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. Toronto backers were laying -135 in Tuesday's series opener that had Ricky Romero on the bump for the home team and Jeff Niemann pitching for the visiting Rays.
Game 2 on Wednesday finds David Price in line to start for Tampa Bay with Brandon Morrow his counterpart for the Jays. Price followed up a good outing vs. the Yankees with a very poor performance last Friday in Boston in which he burned through 83 tosses to get just nine outs. Price was a road warrior last season (8-4, 3.25 ERA) and won both of his games at Rogers Centre with an excellent 19:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio vs. the Toronto lineup.
Morrow is looking for his first dubya of the year after the Blue Jays split his first two starts. He was on the losing end of Price's two wins in Toronto last season, allowing eight runs and four long balls in 10-2/3 innings.
Garza & Buehrle Duel In Miami
Capping off our Wednesday docket is the middle game of a 3-game set in Miami between the Marlins and Chicago Cubs. Mark Buehrle will be looking for his first win with the Marlins while Matt Garza toes the rubber for the Cubbies in the 7:10 p.m. (ET) start.
Buehrle has been a victim of run support in his first two assignments with Miami as Fish batters were unable to solve either Johnny Cueto or Joe Blanton in those games. He saw the Cubs frequently while toiling for the White Sox in their crosstown matchups. The ChiSox emerged victorious in each of his last four starts vs. the North Side crew, Buehrle's 1.82 ERA covering 24-2/3 innings.
Garza also has experience against the Marlins dating back to interleague play during his tenure with the Rays, though this will be his first appearance at the new Miami park. Five assignments vs. the Marlins have yielded a 3-2 record for his clubs with Garza's ERA at 3.90.