Pitchers’ Duel in San Diego: Barry Zito and the Giants Take On Luebke and the Padres – Betting Preview

San Francisco Giants (54-40) AT San Diego Padres (40-54)
July 16, 2011 at 8:35 PM EST
Opening Line:  SD -135, SF +115
Current Line:   SD -135, SF +114
Opening Total: 6
Current Total:  5.5

SP:  SF- Barry Zito; SD- Cory Luebke

Barry Zito is having one of his best seasons in a long time, with an ERA under 4.00

It’s hard not to notice how precariously low the total is set for this one, but given the fact that the Padres have struggled worse offensively than any team not named the Mariners, and it is easy to see why handicappers expect Barry Zito to hold the struggling Padres near-scoreless, or shutout, again.

While the Padres have been bad, the Giants haven’t been much better on the season, as both teams are the two worst scoring in the National League.  In their last 7 games, the Padres have managed only 10 runs, and they have lost all 7 of those games.  Facing Cory Luebke doesn’t necessarily present any solution to the problem either.

Luebke is 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA this season and appears to be exhibiting the promise he showed in the minor leagues at a major league level now.  The 26 year old lefty has “average stuff” according to Baseball Prospectus, but his command over his pitches is deft.  Able to work the strike zone and annoy hitters with inside pitches, Luebke manages to keep hitters off balance and that contributes to his solid ERA, despite the fact that his fastball seldom tops out at over 90.

“He threw the ball well,” manager Bud Black said about Luebke. “His fastball had life, he threw a couple of good curves and he’s building his pitch count. He pitches aggressively and with a good tempo.”

Barry Zito is certainly aware of the process Luebke went through in toiling in the minor leagues for so long, having done it himself:

“Whenever you go to the lower levels in the minor leagues you remember the process to get here,” Zito said. “You forget sometimes after being here for so many years that there’s a huge line of guys behind every one of the guys in here that are waiting to take somebody’s job. So you go down there and you enjoy the game a little more.”

This season, Zito is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA, and while he is far from the 2002 Cy Young form he once had, it is an improvement over recent seasons and a good upgrade from the 4.28 ERA predicted by his PECOTA projections.

San Diego may be without Chase Headley, who suffered a calf injury in last night’s loss.  Headley is the only Padres player hitting over .300, so the loss is grave, and finding runs will be even harder to come by with their only decent hitter out.

Some betting trends:

The San Francisco Giants are 6-1 SU in their last 7 games and the total has gone OVER in 8 of their last 11 games.  It has also gone OVER In 4 of their last 5 on the road.   The Giants are 4-1 SU in their last 5 on the road and they are also 4-1 SU in their last 5 against the San Diego Padres.  The total has gone OVER in 6 of the Giants’ last 7 games against the Padres and it has also gone OVER in 4 of their last 5 on the road against the Padres.  The Giants are 4-1 SU in their last 5 on the road in San Diego.

The total has gone UNDER in 4 of the Padres’ last 6 games and they are 0-5 SU in their last 5.  The Padres are 4-2 SU in their last 6 games at home and the total has gone OVER In 6 of their last 7 games against the San Francisco Giants.  The Padres are 1-4 SU in their last 5 games against the Giants while the total has gone OVER in 4 of the last 5 games at home against San Francisco.  The Padres are 1-4 SU in their last 5 at home against the Giants.

Much like the last time these two pitchers faced off, the total is set low at 5.5, even lower than the 6 it opened at.  Given the Padres’ struggles, it’s a decent proposition, but the Giants have scored 6 runs in each of their last two games and appear to be finding some consistency offensively, making the ‘over’ on this one a good call.  I also endorse a moneyline bet on the slightly underdogged Giants, as I just don’t see the Padres having the juice to support Luebke, even if he can hold the Giants under 3  runs.

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