Past performances are no guarantee of future results. One has to look no further than a key National League matchup on Friday night in Phoenix for confirmation.
Meanwhile, the early pacesetter in the American League West has begun to lag, suggesting that any early coronation of it as repeat division champion could be a bit premature.
Respective battles involving these teams at Chase Field and Rangers Ballpark are featured battles on Friday night as the MLB schedule hits Memorial Day weekend in full stride.
The focus in the National League will be in Phoenix where the Milwaukee Brewers invade to face the host Arizona Diamondbacks. The Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo will oppose the D-Backs’ Ian Kennedy for a matchup with the first pitch scheduled at 9:40 p.m. (ET).
Early pricing for this clash in the desert (as noted on the Don Best odds screen) shows Arizona and Kennedy a slight favorite at -120 on the win, with the take-back on Milwaukee and Gallardo at +110. Initial Run Line pricing rates the Diamondbacks at +165 when laying the extra run, and the Brew Crew at a prohibitive -190 when receiving a run. The early 9-run total shaded to the ‘under’ at -120.
If this confrontation sounds familiar it is probably because these sides met in a memorable NL Division Round clash last October, when Arizona rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win twice at home and force a deciding Game 5 at Miller Park. Which was a pulsating encounter, with the D-Backs fighting back to level matters at 2-2 in the ninth inning thanks to a bunt single by Willie Bloomquist to score Gerardo Parra.
Arizona, however, left the bases loaded and missed a chance to seize the lead in the top of the ninth and eventually paid the price in the bottom of the 10th inning, when a 2-out base hit by Milwaukee’s Nyjer Morgan off J.J. Putz scored Carlos Gomez with the winning run to send the Brew Crew into the NLCS against the Cardinals.
Ah, the Brewers and Diamondbacks might be saying, for the good old days. A check of the NL standings notes both sides struggling as they try to gain some traction before the season slips away.
For the 18-26 Brewers, they enter the weekend buried in fifth place in the NL Central, seven games adrift of the table-topping Cardinals. Milwaukee has also lost seven of its last 10 and is just 7-13 on the road, consistently burning investors in the process; the Brew Crew is an NL-worst -1377 units this season, and -771 units on the road. Milwaukee is also -1049 on the Run Line to date.
For Arizona, things aren’t much better, languishing at 20-25 and buried in third place in the NL West, 10½ games behind the rampaging Dodgers. There hasn’t been much home-field edge for the Snakes at Chase Field, either, where they’ve lost 14 of their first 22 games and scalded their backers by losing 879 units as host.
Recent concerns for Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke mostly involve a pitching staff that outside of starter Zack Greinke has mostly struggled. That would include Friday’s starter Gallardo, in whose nine previous the Brew Crew is -543 units. Only eight of 191 MLB starters have been worse money-burners in their starts than Gallardo, although lack of run support from the Brewer offense (which has scored one run or fewer in four of Gallardo’s last six starts) accounts for part of the blame that has resulted in Milwaukee losing five of Gallardo’s last six outings.
It is worth noting that Gallardo is a spotless 5-0 in past appearances vs. Arizona, with a microscopic 1.20 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. His recent form has been suspect, however, especially on the road, where he has posted a hefty 6.00 ERA in four starts this season.
As for Kennedy, his quick start in April in now a distant memory, with the D-Backs losing his last five starts. Over his last three starts, Kennedy has been especially ineffective, posting a 7.27 ERA, although he has fared well in limited past experience vs. Milwaukee (2.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 20 IP in three previous starts).
Kennedy’s recent problems have not eased matters for an Arizona bullpen that has been overworked in recent weeks as manager Kirk Gibson opts for a four-man starting rotation with Daniel Hudson temporarily shelved with shoulder problems. Chris Young’s recent return to active duty from a shoulder injury at least suggests the Diamondbacks are getting healthier, although that has yet to correspond with any surge in the standings. And longtime nemesis Gallardo could pose a difficult hurdle to overcome on Friday night.
Are The Rangers A Tired Team?
Meanwhile, Friday’s focus in the American League centers upon Arlington, where host Texas is hoping that home cooking provides the proper recipe to shake a recent funk. Toronto comes calling at Rangers Ballpark for the first pitch at 8:05 p.m. (ET).
A check of the Don Best odds screen notes that Texas and starter Derek Holland rate -140 in early pricing on the win, with the take-back on the Blue Jays and Brandon Morrow at +130. On the Run Line, the Rangers fetch an inviting +145 price when laying the extra run, while Toronto is listed at +165, with the total at nine and shaded to the ‘under’ at -115.
Perhaps due to a thankless recent scheduling stretch that saw Texas play 20 games in 20 days prior to an off day on Thursday, the Rangers have cooled somewhat, alternating losses and wins over their last nine games and just 10-12 over their last 22 since the beginning of May. They also lost six of their last 10 in what seemed to be winnable games vs. the Royals, A’s, Astros and Mariners.
The overvalued Rangers are -669 units over their last 12 games, although at 27-18 they are still comfortably ahead in the AL West (second-place Oakland five games adrift heading into the weekend).
As for Toronto, it seemed to steady itself earlier in the month after taking two of three at Rogers Centre against the Rangers, but enters this weekend set having lost three of four, including a painful 5-4 setback on Wednesday at Tampa Bay. At 24-21, John Farrell’s side currently resides in third place in the AL East, four games behind surprising division leader Baltimore.
The pitching edge in this encounter, however, might rest with the Blue Jays, especially if Brandon Morrow can replicate most of his recent efforts. Those include allowing one run or fewer in five of his last six starts. Over Morrow’s last five outings he has also struck out 42 batters and walked only five in mostly-overpowering efforts.
Morrow has been especially good on the road this season, with a 3-0 record in four starts thanks to a barely-detectable 0.63 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. Morrow did not face the Rangers in the series at Rogers Centre four weeks ago, but fared decently in two starts vs. Texas a year ago, notching one win while posting a 2.77 ERA.
As for the Rangers’ southpaw Derek Holland, he has been wildly erratic in recent starts, and is off of a poor outing last Saturday at Houston when allowing five runs (and three homers) over just 5 IP in an eventual 6-5 Astros win.
And while the Rangers still lead all MLB in batting average at .284, there have been some recent trouble spots in the order, with DH Michael Young enduring one of the worst months of his career while bating just .208 thus far in May, and just seven hits in his last 38 at-bats (.184). Catcher Mike Napoli is also slumping at the plate, only 3-for-26 (.115) over the last 10 games.
Note, too, that through the first seven weeks of the 2012 campaign, Texas has played better on the road than at home, where it is 11-9 but -391 units. As for Toronto, consider its +863 unit performance on the Run Line, which ranks third best in the AL behind only the Orioles and White Sox.
The Blue Jays won six of 10 meetings vs. the Rangers last season, including four of seven at Arlington. Morrow would seem to give them a decent chance of extending that success on Friday night at a very desirable price.