Those folks over at ESPN got all giddy this week after the New York Mets swept the Philadelphia Phillies on their own diamond. It was a most bodacious accomplishment, to be sure, but we're still talking about a Mets team that was broomed by the Houston Astros a week ago, and the Phils clearly aren't the team we all thought they should be at this point.
Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins have quietly turned around a poor April when they went 8-14 and closed the schedule's first month with eight setbacks in nine games. Ozzie Guillen's club also struggled on the highway to get the 2012 campaign started, winning just twice away from home in the initial 11 tries. The Marlins come home this weekend off a huge road trip during which they won eight of nine while traveling through San Francisco, San Diego and Houston.
The Mets and Marlins are both chasing the Washington Nationals in the NL East as they open a weekend set at the new Fish Tank in Miami on Friday. The series opener had two veteran left-handers on the hill with Mark Buehrle listed as a $1.20 favorite at home vs. Johan Santana. A 7-run total could also be found on the Don Best odds screen, and results were still pending.
Saturday's second game will see the mound duel turn around to the right side for a 1:05 p.m. (ET) start. New York is slated to send knuckler RA Dickey to the mound with Miami trotting Ricky Nolasco out for his turn in the order.
The Marlins will be looking to get even with the Mets after New York swept three from the Fish at Citi Field a little more than two weeks ago. All three contests finished 'under' the scoreboard hurdles (7-7½), with the hosts winning twice as underdogs. A New York win on Friday would match their longest win streak against the Marlins (6 games), and the Mets enter the weekend having won nine of the last 11 from Miami.
Dickey has three of the nine wins in that stretch after taking down Miami on April 25 in New York as a +125 'dog vs. Buehrle. Except for one pounding he took in Atlanta on April 18, Dickey has been about as consistent a pitcher as manager Terry Collins could ask for. Dickey's five quality starts top the New York charts, and he takes the mound with the Mets 4-2 in his outings (+2.8 units) and the 'under' also 4-2.
Nolasco has been even more profitable for bettors with Miami 5-1 in his six assignments (+4.8 units) and the 'over' cashing four times. He pitched well enough to win in New York back in April – 7 IP, 1 ER, no-decision in a 3-2 loss – but received no support from his lineup. Miami has dropped Nolasco's last three starts vs. New York despite the right-hander owning a 3.04 ERA in those contests.
The clubs are set to close the series with a Sunday matinee that currently lists Jonathan Niese as New York's starter and Carlos Zambrano for the Marlins.
Heavyweights Slug It Out In St. Louis
Seriously, did you see this sort of start for the St. Louis Cardinals this year? I didn't, and I can't help but think Redbird Nation is mildly shocked even given the expectations most St. Louis fans have year in, year out.
The Cardinals will continue a series Saturday with another team that has exceeded my expectations in a 7:15 p.m. (ET) collision with the Atlanta Braves. These are the top scoring squads in the NL, and among the majors' top 5, and it will be up to Brandon Beachy for the Braves and the Cards' Adam Wainwright to keep the two offenses at bay.
Friday's series opener was still pending at press, and featured a pair of southpaws in Atlanta's Mike Minor and St. Louis' Jaime Garcia. The Cards were priced at -140 for that contest with an 8-run total.
Unlike their AL brothers in Boston, last September's swoon has not carried over into this season for the Braves. In fact, the offense that went limp with injuries last September has vastly improved with Atlanta's scoring up more than a run per game from 2011's 3.96 mark. But even with a 5.19 RPG clip entering the series, the Braves are nearly a half-run behind St. Louis' 5.61 average. So much for missing Albert Pujols, huh?
Beachy has gotten off to an outstanding campaign following up on his 2011 rookie season that ended with the Braves dropping each of his five September outings. The right-hander out of Indiana Wesleyan has strung together five straight quality starts, and he's been impressive away from home with Atlanta 3-1 in his road assignments and Beachy's highway ERA at 1.80.
Wainwright, of course, is trying to get back into form after missing 2011 due to elbow surgery. His control has been fine (34:7 K/BB ratio in 33+ IP) and the velocity is improving, but he's been a victim of seven long balls already in six starts. The Georgia native has beaten the Braves in each of his six career starts, and Wainwright is a perfect 3-0 in his assignments at Turner Field (2.57 ERA).
St. Louis dominated this series the past two seasons, winning 11 of the 14 meetings and all seven at Busch III in 2010-11. The 'under' was 2-1 in St. Louis last year.