Alright, let’s make one thing clear: picking MLB games is almost impossible sometimes. With the day-to-day grind that manifests for six months, it isn’t quite like the NFL, where the “Any Given Sunday” mantra is something of a fallacy. The oddsmakers might have you believe otherwise, by putting odds like -310 on the Dodgers against the Angels (is any one game that much of a given?). So, I thought it might be more fun to make a few “picks to click” type projections for tonight, a full, 15-game slate as Tuesdays always are. So here are five things I expect to see tonight around the league:
1. Holliday haunts his old mates
Matt Holliday was beat up and maybe even washed up in 2015. In 2016, he looks much more like the guy who was the 2007 NL MVP runner-up. His power has returned, as his six home runs have already topped last year’s whopping total of four. Holliday, whose contract ESPN’s Buster Olney recently opined was one of the best big-money deals in recent history, would love to show the Rockies the error of their ways as they visit St. Louis for a three-game series. Holliday is batting 1.000 against tonight’s starter, Chad Bettis (okay, in only one at-bat, but still…).
2. Padres get Mad
I’m going out on a limb with this one. The Giants are red-hot right now, winners of five straight as they mosey into San Diego, where they will likely be greeted by a crowd of more than 50% Giants fans. But Madison Bumgarner is surprisingly only 3-4 with a 4.10 ERA lifetime at Petco Park in 11 career games (10 starts), and the Padres are starting to generate a little bit of offense. Here’s thinking that young Colin Rea (3-1, 4.24 ERA) outduels Bumgarner and the Padres find a way to win in front of their bipartisan crowd.
3. Salazar hangs 10 (or more) on Reds
The Indians whipped up on their cross-state rivals last night, outscoring the Redlegs 15-2 after falling behind 4-0 in the top of the third. Danny Salazar takes the hill averaging exactly 10 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, and he has 53 in 42 2/3 innings this season. His only career start against the Reds was a disaster, but as I like to say, these are not only not your father’s Reds, but they aren’t even your older brother’s Reds. Salazar will generate double-digit whiffs against lowly Cincinnati tonight.
4. The Braves give a spirited effort in Game 1 A.D.
The A.D. here stands for “after dismissal” in reference to the firing of Fredi Gonzalez after a dreadful 9-28 start. I won’t go so far as to predict the Braves will win in interim manager Brian Snitker’s first game, but young Aaron Blair is also seeking his first career win in start number five. I expect Atlanta to at least give the Pirates a nine-inning dogfight, even if the Juan Nicasio-led Buccos prevail. The team is pretty much as bad as its record indicates, but the Gonzalez firing should at least temporarily light a fire under the Bravos.
5. Keuchel does Dallas in Chicago, and Zack Attacks in Phoenix
On a night when two Cy Young candidates square off in a battle for NL East supremacy in the Big Apple in Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard, there are two former Cy Young hurlers looking to regain their dominant form in Dallas Keuchel and Zack Greinke. Keuchel (2-5, 5.58) and Greinke (3-3, 5.26) have both been massively disappointing after incredible 2015 campaigns, but may have the right opponents to cure what ails them tonight. The White Sox are playing a bit over their heads at 24-14 and are coming off a series loss in the Bronx, while the Yankees’ offense still ranks near the bottom of the league rankings despite a recent 7-3 homestand. Keuchel and Greinke may not pitch shutouts, but I expect much better efforts than what we’ve seen so far.
Other “milder” predictions:
-Mike Pelfrey gives the Tigers another solid outing against his former team, the Twins.
-Big Papi, David Ortiz, gets a standing ovation in his final series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
-There will be one walk-off winner tonight. Top candidates: Pirates, Cardinals, Mets.