After three days of All-Star festivities and two long days without any baseball whatsoever, Major League Baseball returns on Friday with baseball’s “second half.” We’re already 90-something games into the season, but the traditional halfway point is finally behind us, which means things really start to pick up from here. That is especially the case if your team is on the fringe of the playoff race.
On Friday night, we go out to Boston where two playoff hopefuls collide in an important three-game set. The Kansas City Royals sit just on the outside looking in on the Wildcard race, while the Boston Red Sox still have not died in the American League East. Both teams had their struggles in the first half, but also give everyone reason to believe they could make a push for the playoffs in July and August. James Shields and Clay Buchholz square off to begin things in game one.
Clay Buchholz has been pretty darn awful this season. But some people would say that you’re only as good as your last start. And if that’s the case, Buchholz poses tremendous value coming off a three-hit, 12 strikeout shutout of the Houston Astros at Minutemaid Park. Buchholz has always been a bit of an enigma for Boston – showing flashes of brilliance while also finding himself on the disabled list often. This year, he’s been relatively healthy but just has not pitched up to his abilities at all. The Kansas City Royals don’t have a very potent offense and Buchholz will be well-rested after the time off this week. If there’s ever a time where we should expect a good start from Buchholz this season; it’s probably tomorrow.
James Shields is very much the anti-Buchholz for someone who has been on the somewhat same level of stardom as he has over the last six, seven years. Shields is a model of consistency and this year has been no different. He continues to throw lots of innings and post very low WHIP numbers. His 3.65 ERA is also below his career mark. He’s had some troubles with Boston in his career, dating back to the AL East. But Shields is a battler. And I expect a quality start for him against a Boston lineup that certainly has seen better days in the last five years. The Sox don’t really have a home run threat besides David Ortiz, which should help Shields mightily.
I like both starters to throw well and shutdown the weak offenses on either end. Even if it is in Fenway.
Free Pick: Kansas City/Boston Under 8.5 (-110)
YTD: 23-19-2 +0.88