The sweet smell of pigskin is in the air as the NFL kicks off the 2014 preseason with the annual Hall of Fame Game. But don’t worry baseball lovers, we also have a selection circled for that affair along with a couple of Saturday MLB matchups.
Kansas City Royals @ Oakland Athletics Pick
The A’s will be debuting their prized trade deadline acquisition Jon Lester in this game and you can expect them to be fired up. He’s expected to lead the way to a World Series, so look for his new teammates to back him up.
The offenses of the two teams have been vastly different lately as the A’s ranked fifth in July for runs scored. The Royals were 28th in that category. The Royals are also 28th in runs scored when facing a lefty whereas the A’s lead the league in runs versus southpaws.
Bruce Chen will go up against Lester and he has a 7.71 ERA and 1.71 WHIP on the road. Opposing batters are hitting .316 against him in road starts. The juice will be really high on the A’s in this game but expect them to roll easily, so lay the extra run to make the price tag more affordable.
Pick: Athletics -1.5
Texas Rangers @ Cleveland Indians Pick
The Rangers and Indians will meet up in a contest that has the makings of a high-scoring affair. The Rangers will send Miles Mikolas to the mound to face off with Danny Salazar. Unfortunately, it’s probably gonna be one of those games where the pitchers on both sides will be giving up a hefty amount of runs before the bullpen gets called in.
Mikolas has been a train wreck this season. He started five times in July and gave up 25 earned runs in 26.1 innings pitched (8.54 ERA). He could have a tough time against an Indians offense that was second in homeruns in July, third in runs scored and fourth in hits.
As for Salazar, he has an ERA of 5.06 at home with a 1.70 WHIP. Opposing hitters are batting .310 against him at Progressive Field. The Rangers as a team have batted better on the road (fifth in batting average) than at home (14th).
New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills HOF Game Pick
We don’t have a real edge as far as coaches are concerned as Tom Coughlin has a career 19-21 preseason record while Doug Marrone is just 2-2. That being the case, we’ll look at the quarterback depth for guidance.
The Bills have a significant edge in that category as they’ll probably play four guys who have made NFL starts before. They’ll start with EJ Manuel, then follow up with Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon. Make no mistake: none of these guys are really that good. However, this is preseason and if these guys have played in real, live regular season action, they should be capable of moving the ball against second- and third-stringers.
The Giants’ rotation just isn’t as strong. They have Eli Manning, but we won’t see much of him. Beyond that, it’s Curtis Painter, who is well below average, and Ryan Nassib, who has struggled in training camp. Take the Bills to win here.