The Phillies and Pirates have exchanged low scoring wins in their first two games, but today’s posted total seems low considering the starting pitchers are the weakest in the series so far. Go ‘over’ the low total Sunday.
Look for a higher scoring game than the low total suggests Sunday when the Philadelphia Phillies (1-1 overall, 1-1 away) pay another visit to the Pittsburgh Pirates (1-1 overall, 1-1 home) as the teams wrap up a three-game series from PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA at 1:35 ET.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 7½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ listed at a positive +101.
These teams have gone ‘under’ the MLB odds in the first two games of the season, as Roy Halladay looked to be in mid-season form in a 1-0 Philadelphia win on opening day and the Pirates countered with a 2-1 win in 10 innings Saturday as Cliff Lee and Jeff Karstens each tossed gems.
The Phillies are the favorites to win the World Series this season on the strength of their pitching, especially since they now have a premier closer in Jonathan Papelbon in addition to the best starting staff in baseball. Philadelphia does figure to struggle to score runs over the first half of the season though with Ryan Howard recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and Chase Utley out with tendinitis in his right knee.
The first two games have lived up (or down) to expectations as the pitching has been stellar but the team is hitting .221 as a team while going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
The Pirates showed great improvement over the first half of last season before tailing off late, but they did manage to avoid another last-place finish in the National League Central as they in fact finished fourth at 72-90, ahead of both the Chicago Cubs and the last-place Houston Astros.
So why do we expect more runs to be scored today than in the first two games of this series combined? Well, that has everything to do with today’s starting pitchers, both of whom we expect to regress from last year.
Vance Worley gets the start for the Phillies and he put up some nice numbers in his rookie year last season, finishing at 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA. However, he was basically a five-inning pitcher and the Phils did an excellent job of nursing him along to that impressive record, giving him leads and then yanking him at the first hint of trouble after the fifth inning.
Philadelphia then put Worley in the bullpen for the post-season, which was obviously understandable with four great starters ahead of him in the rotation, but he does seem better suited for the long relief role anyway. His last start in spring training this year is also cause for concern, as he was lit up for 11 runs on 11 hits in four innings by the normally light-hitting Minnesota Twins.
James McDonald gets the start for the Pirates and he is coming off of career highs last season in wins (9) and strikeouts (142). That is not really saying much though as he still finished only 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA and a high 1.49 WHIP, and he wasn’t exactly fooling opposing batter as they hit .268 off of him.
McDonald also has a poor spring posting an ugly 8.31 ERA and he was lit up in two starts vs. the Phillies last year, surrendering eight earned runs on 13 hits plus seven walks in nine innings.
Given this pitching matchup, we feel compelled to go ‘over’ a 7½ total even with the offensive struggles by these teams so far.
MLB Pick: Phillies, Pirates ‘over’ 7½ (+101)