Trust this starting 5

Jun 7, 2005 6:35 AM

This week Jim Feist astutely pointed out the value of the bullpens, how failing closers have wreaked havoc with our wagers and which teams to back.

That leaves the starting pitching, the old reliable statistic most bettors examine first when deciding which teams to put their money on that particular day.

It’s fun to check the research over the first 35 games and determine our starting five. There are omissions (Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, for openers) more than worthy of being on the list, but remember that we think from a gaming standpoint.

Translation: If their teams don’t win games, what good are they to us? Unless, of course, you go the other way — which more often than not suggests taking the underdog.

Our simple breakdown of five moneymakers, basically puts the San Diego Padres as the best team in the National League. Having two of the five means no long losing streaks, plenty of victories and probably more than a few run line wagers.

Anyway, here’s the five we stand behind from a betting perspective. May the force be with us.

Jake Peavy, San Diego: The Padres are 10-1 in Peavy’s starts, including seven straight wins. The karma is so strong that when Peavy was rocked for four early runs against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Padres still wound up winning on the run line, 8-4.

Adam Eaton, San Diego: Little to choose from between Eaton and Peavy. The Padres are 10-2 behind Eaton and have also strung seven straight victories. San Diego has 20 of its 34 wins when either right-hander throws.

Roy Halladay, Toronto: It’s "halladay" season in Canada when Roy pitches because the opposing hitters take the day off. The Blue Jays are 9-2 in his starts, including four straight wins. Halladay won the Cy Young two years ago and is headed to a second. He doesn’t need a closer.

Livan Hernandez, Washington: This horse threw over 150 pitches in his last outing against the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals are 5-1 in Hernandez’ last six starts and 10-3 overall. If Livan is left off the All-Star team it would be a greater crime than Nixon and Watergate.

Jeff Francis, Colorado: The Rockies are horrible, particularly on the road. However, any pitcher who can thrive at Coors Field will make our list. Colorado is 4-1 this season with Francis at home, and the 24-year-old left-hander has a lifetime ERA below 3. His games go ”˜under’ and the Rocks win.

Honorable mention: Dontrelle Willis (Florida 9-2), Jon Garland (White Sox 8-2, started 8-0).