Paul Lo Duca: Why I Like the Rockies and Runs on Friday

Paul Lo Duca: Why I Like the Rockies and Runs on Friday article feature image

Is there such a thing as a big series in April?

I think so. I used to hate when people would argue that games in August and September are the only ones that matter. What, these games in April don’t count toward your record? Don’t tell New Yorkers that. They are booing Giancarlo Stanton on April 19. Every game counts. That’s why MLB is the best league — it’s all about the grind.

New York Yankees (-181) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (+171) | O/U 9
7:05 p.m. ET

Following a 4-3 Thursday victory over Toronto on Thursday, the Yankees will host the Jays in the second of a four-game set on Friday. Toronto (12-6) has gotten off to a great this year, while the The Bronx Bombers (9-8) haven’t, at least relative to expectations.


Marco Estrada (1-1, 4.24) takes the hill for the Jays against Sonny Gray (1-1, 6.92). Gray (pictured above) has been a bit disappointing this year, but his stats are somewhat deceiving. His lone start against the Blue Jays was good, as he struck out eight and allowed just one run over four innings in his first start of the year; his curveball had tremendous bite in that outing. Gray was mediocre in his next start, giving up three runs over six innings against Baltimore, but he did record the win. Things took a turn for the worse in his most recent appearance, however, as the buzzsaw known as the Boston Red Sox torched Gray for six runs in just three innings. Also concerning: Gray’s strikeout numbers were down in both of those games, and he’s really struggled with his control early. Then again, the Red Sox have been beating up on everyone, and sometimes you just have to draw a line through a start.

As for the Jays’ starter, Estrada was good in his first two starts, including one against the Yankees, before struggling in his last outing. He earned a no-decision in his first start of the season, allowing three runs over seven innings but striking out only two. Low strikeout numbers are the norm for Estrada, however: He is more of a deception guy than a punchout artist.

The Yankees now get to see him once again in the early going, and the timing couldn’t be better for New York. Yankee fans can’t bare to see another strikeout, and believe me, the players know it. They can hear the boos in their sleep. Estrada is the perfect cure for a strikeout-prone lineup like New York’s.

Finally, the weather in the Bronx should be around 55 degrees at game time. That should really help Sonny Gray and that curveball as he tries to bounce back. On the other hand, this will be Toronto’s second time facing Gray as well.

With good weather and plenty of familiarity between the teams, look for runs. Lots of runs. Play the over.

Chicago (+102) vs. Colorado (-112) | O/U 10.5
8:40 p.m. ET

The Cubbies (8-8) got back to .500 yesterday with a big win at home against the Cards. It seems like the bats have come alive, but this is still a disappointing start for a team with really high expectations. That said, I always give the cold weather teams a break this time of year. It’s brutal to play in that weather, and as the temperature rises the Cubs should as well. Now that Anthony Rizzo is back in that lineup, he changes the whole dynamic.

The Rockies (11-9) are coming off a grueling road trip at Pittsburgh and at the Nationals, but they held their own. In fact, since Luis Perdomo threw that ball behind Nolan Arenado, the Rockies are 6-2.

I don’t what ticket is going to be hotter: this series against the Cubs or the Padres’ upcoming visit to Colorado. Yes, the Padres come back to Coors Field on Monday. Hold on to your wigs for that series.

Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 3.71) takes on Jon Gray (1-3, 6.23) in Denver on Friday night. Hendricks has been himself. He puts together solid outing after solid outing. He’s going to throw that sinker at about 88 mph. Even though you know it’s coming, it’s a tough pitch to hit, though his control and velocity have been a bit worse this year than in previous seasons. To make matters worse, sinkerballers usually struggle in Colorado’s dry air. Plus, Hendricks has been plagued by the long ball early, with four home runs allowed in his three starts. All four of those home runs have been hit by lefties. Guess who is sitting in that other dugout? Left-handed slugger Charlie Blackmon.

Gray, who’s given up three home runs and 15 total runs in 21.2 innings, has been bad. Or has he? Many of his stats aren’t pretty, but he has struck out 23 batters. And he’s been dominant at times this year, like when he tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out seven against the Padres. However, he was hit hard in next start, a rematch with San Diego on April 9 (seven runs and 10 hits in five innings).

But the ability is there, and like I said, sometimes you have to draw a line through a start. Guys were hitting all over the place throughout that San Diego series, and Gray got caught up in it. I think he bounces back with a good start. Plus, his ERA was almost a run lower last year at Coors Field than on the road. Throw in the fact that you always get great value whenever you play against the Cubs, and I recommended rolling with the Rockies.

Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty, USA TODAY Sports

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