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Thursday's comp play comes in the American League, and it goes on the Angels as they return home after a road trip that saw them go just 2-5 versus division rivals Oakland and Seattle.
Not that the Halos or tonight's starter, the 0-4 Joe Blanton are setting the world on fire this spring, but they do catch the Baltimore Orioles a little road-weary. The O's did come up on the short-side last night at Safeco to put them at 4-3 on their current road swing, but after a late night in the Emerald City, I have to believe that even though the Orioles are playing the better brand of baseball, they will be just a little tired when they hit the field in Orange County tonight.
Chris Tillman rates the edge over Blanton and is coming into this start off a win in Oakland, but the Orioles are just 2-8 the last 10 series meetings versus the Halos, and the Angels are back at home where they have won 6 of their past 8 games.
In a near pick situation, will side with the Angels at home over the Orioles.
San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs
Pick: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have taken two of three at home against the Padres, and they wrap up this four game series Thursday at Wrigley. Travis Wood will toe the rubber for the home team, and he's coming off a win his last time out. Wood (2-1, 2.25 ERA) allowed two runs on just three hits over six innings in a 3-2 win over the Fish in Miami. Wood has been a better pitcher during the day, putting up better numbers in the afternoon than he has under the lights at night. He's posted a 3.89 ERA in 28 starts in day games since 2010, significantly better than the 4.52 ERA at night. The Padres will send Eric Stults to the mound, and he's coming off a terrible outing. Stults (2-2, 5.67 ERA) allowed five runs on four hits in just four innings, and didn't factor in the decision in an 8-7 ballgame that the Padres rallied to win over the Giants. He wasn't as fortunate in his previous start, as he gave up five runs on eight hits over seven innings, and got tagged with a loss as the Padres fell 5-0 to San Francisco. Stults has only had one start at Wrigley in recent seasons, and that didn't go well. He would take the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings. The Cubs should be able to get to the left-hander here at Wrigley on Thursday, and I'm expecting another blowout win for the Cubbies.
Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals
Pick: Kansas City Royals
There are some leaks in the Tampa Bay dike that have been exposed this week in Kansas City, namely a shaky bullpen and a bottom of the batting order that is struggling to hit its own weight. All significant negatives for the Rays as they prepare to close out this midweek set at Kauffman Stadium. Making matters more difficult tonight will be Royals starter Ervin Santana, who has been a pleasant surprise in the first month of the season with a 2.00 ERA, and an even better 1.20 ERA over his last four starts. Meanwhile, Roberto Hernandez (nee Fausto Carmona; 1-4, 5.28 ERA) has been wobbly for Tampa Bay, which is also a poor 4-11 on the road.
After dropping the first two games of this series, Washington won yesterday 2-0, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Braves in the process. Look for that success to be short-lived however. Despite Wednesday's win, the Nats still have plenty of problems, mostly at the plate. Facing Kris Medlen in the series finale isn't likely to cure those woes. I'm taking Atlanta Thursday....
It wasn't all good news for the Nats yesterday as Bryce Harper had to leave the game with an injury. Even if he plays here, Harper is one of several key contributors to the Washington lineup that's not 100%. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman isn't due back until the weekend and Jayson Werth has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. This is an offense that has scored just seven times over the last four games while batting a collective .165.
Don't expect those numbers to get any better at the expense of Medlen, who is a hard-luck 1-3 this year despite a 3.26 ERA. He's off rare back to back bad outings, but should bounce back here against a Nationals team he had a 2-0 TSR against last season, allowing just one earned run in 14 IP w/ a 20-2 KW ratio. Braves take the series finale Thursday night.
The Padres ran into a hot pitcher (at least for one game) in Scott Feldman last night, as he held them to three hits and struck out 12 over the course of a complete game victory.
I don't expect a repeat performance on Thursday, as the Cubs turn to Travis Wood.
Wood has been solid in the early going this season, but as far as I'm concerned he's been pitching over his head, and we should see some regression moving forward.
Note that Wood has posted ERAs north of four in each of the last two seasons. He checks into Thursday's start sporting an excellent 2.25 ERA. Note that he faced the Padres right here at Wrigley Field last season and gave up seven hits and six earned runs over just five innings of work.
San Diego will counter with Eric Stults. The journeyman left-hander has struggled over his last two starts, both coming against the Giants. He has proven he can win on the road, however, guiding the Padres to victories in New York (against the Mets) and Los Angeles (against the Dodgers) this season. He's struck out 13 while walking only three in 18 innings of work away from home.
Bouncing back from an ugly loss often isn't as difficult to do in baseball as it is in some of the other sports. The season is a long grind, and there will be games where the offense simply can't get going - just as we saw from the Pads' last night. That poor performance doesn't change the fact that San Diego has been playing well lately, and I look for it to foil Chicago's chances of picking up a series win on Thursday afternoon.
Ryan Dempster (1-2, 3.30 ERA) gets the call for the visitors; Dempster is coming off his first win of the year and I look for the veteran to build off the performance. While it was just the lowly Astros, Dempster would finish with 10K's, allowing two runs off four hits with three walks over six frames of work. In his lone start away from Fenway this year the big right-hander gave up three runs over five frames of work back on April 4th (and note that Dempster was 7-5 with a respectable 3.15 ERA away from friendly confines last season). Dempster will be opposed by JA Happ (2-1, 3.86 ERA) who has been saddled with two-straight no-decisions. Happ will look to duplicate the success he enjoyed vs. the the Red Sox earlier in the year as the southpaw held them to just one hit over 5 1/3 scoreless innings (note that Happ was 8-6 with a 4.21 ERA in friendly confines last season). I believe these starters have what it takes to battle each other into the latter frames and will therefore recommend a second look at the "under" in this one.