A pair of division leaders took 14 innings to break a 1-1 tie last night at Citi Field. The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals have set the pace, along with the Dodgers, in the National League through the first quarter of the MLB season. Both sides have come out running from the front with strong pitching so it certainly isn’t surprising to see another starting pitcher matchup that has yielded a low total after Harvey and Lackey managed to stay well under their expected pitcher’s duel number.
Whenever a young, highly touted arm gets off to a great start in his second or third season, Cy Young murmurs don’t take long to become audible. Michael Wacha has already heard such rumblings just seven starts into this season. The young power pitcher out of A&M has been immaculate in the win-loss column (5-0) and more than reasonably clean elsewhere, similarly to how he began 2014. Now the question will be how the 23-year-old can sustain himself over a long season. St. Louis has done a nice job managing his innings, despite what must be a strong temptation to push their ace while he’s been so effective. Wacha hasn’t thrown more than seven innings in any start this season. And his pitch count hasn’t exceeded 105, which came in his last time out. And Wacha has rewarded his club with five starts of either one or zero runs allowed. He allowed two in the other and four in his toughest time of the year (a game the Cardinals blew open early). With a favorable matchup against a still pretty anemic Mets’ offense, the likelihood of another one of those 0/1 run outings looks strong.
The potential problem with backing the Birds is that Jonathan Niese has equally as many of those 0/1 run starts in his seven appearances. I’m just not convinced his have been created equally with Wacha’s. Niese has taken advantage of a pair of starts against both Philadelphia and Atlanta, two divisional opponents that help make New York’s offense look better than it is. He’s allowed 48 hits in just over 43 innings and a whole bunch of unearned runs that have helped keep his ERA down. While Niese has put up some really good numbers that compare with Wacha’s, we shouldn’t consider the pitching matchup balanced in this one.
The Cardinals look like a strong play for the game, but I’ll play them in the first five innings with some confidence that the Mets won’t actually cash. The probability of a win or push in this situation seems high with Wacha dealing.
Free Pick: St. Louis -125 (first 5 innings)
YTD: 4-2-1 +1.73
2014: 45-28-3 +9.02