Back Pirates At Home Vs. Marlins In Potential Wild-Card Preview

Andrew McCutchen

Sunday, August 21, 2016 3:19 PM GMT

The Marlins visit the Pirates on Sunday afternoon to close a three-game series in the final meeting of the season between the teams this season. Or is it? Read Our Capper's insight on this game.

What You Need To Know
The Marlins aren't winning the NL East Division and the Pirates aren't winning the NL Central. Those titles will go to the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs, respectively. But the Marlins and Pirates could conceivably face off in the wild-card game as both are right in the mix there the Cardinals, maybe the Mets and with whichever team finishes runner-up in the NL West between the Dodgers and Giants.

Pittsburgh has hosted the wild-card game the past three years, losing the past two. It appeared the Bucs were perhaps waiving the white flag on the season around the Aug. 1 trade deadline as they dealt away All-Star closer Mark Melancon to Washington and Opening Day starting pitcher Francisco Liriano to Toronto in what were basically salary dumps. Entering August, the Pirates were only 52-51. But they have played much better this month to jump back into the wild-card race. New closer Tony Watson has filled in very nicely for Melancon. Pittsburgh traded for Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova and the team has won all three of his starts.

And perhaps most important of all, former NL MVP and annual candidate for that award, Andrew McCutchen, is starting to hit to expectations after struggling through July. McCutchen was benched three games to start August and it seems to have worked, although McCutchen doesn't see a correlation.

'I'm getting a pitch to hit and not missing them. That's the difference,' McCutchen said this week in describing his turnaround.

I give Pittsburgh a better chance of getting a wild-card spot than the Marlins since Miami lost star slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton for the season last weekend to injury. In addition, first baseman Justin Bour, who was having a breakout season, hasn't played in the majors since July 2 with an ankle problem and likely won't be back until mid-September. Thus I think this team still could make a waiver trade before the end of the month. There was talk the Marlins might sign Alex Rodriguez, but he's staying retired. Miami also has been linked to Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, but he wants to finish his final season in pinstripes and has a no-trade clause.

Miami could get good news Sunday with the activation of closer A.J. Ramos off the disabled list. Ramos, who has 32 saves, hasn't pitched in the majors since Aug. 5 due to a broken ring finger. Manager Don Mattingly says if Ramos isn't 100 percent upon activation, though, that he won't return as the closer right away. Fernando Rodney has closed out games in Ramos' place and done so successfully.

The Marlins are +1800 on MLB odds to win the pennant and the Pirates are +3000.

Shop For Live Odds For Marlins vs Pirates

Probable Pitchers
The Marlins are short on starters with left-handers Wei-Yen Chen and Adam Conley on the disabled list. Both are hoping to return for the stretch run. But their absences mean that the Marlins have a guy in the rotation that probably shouldn't be in 24-year-old right-hander Jose Urena (1-4, 6.80). He has made 20 appearances this season in the majors and the past four have been starts. He was roughed up for a second straight outing Tuesday in Cincinnati, allowing five runs and seven hits, walking three, over six innings in a loss. He had been recalled from Triple-A to make that start. The Marlins are 1-8 on MLB picks in Urena's past nine starts.

Urena pitched in relief on May 30 vs. Pittsburgh and allowed four runs and three hits in one inning. He gave up a grand slam to Gregory Polanco. Jung-Ho Kang is 2-for-4 career off Urena with a double and RBI. Josh Harrison is 2-for-3 with a double and RBI. McCutchen has a single in three at-bats off him.

The Pirates counter with veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (2-2, 3.20). He has made three starts since returning from a long disabled list stint after getting hit by a line drive in the head on May 23 vs. Colorado. Vogelsong's first two starts off the DL were quality but the Pirates lost them both. He wasn't sharp Monday at the Giants in allowing four runs and nine hits (two homers) over 5.2 innings but he won that game.

Vogelsong hasn't faced the Marlins this year. Dee Gordon is 12-for-36 (.333) career off him with three extra-base hits and four RBIs. Martin Prado is 6-for-27 with two doubles and a RBI. Ichiro Suzuki is 0-for-13 against him. Christian Yelich is 1-for-8 against Vogelsong with two strikeouts.

My picks for today would be both the Pirates and 'over.' The Marlins are 0-6 in Urena's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Pirates have won nine of their past 13 in Game 3 of a series. The 'over' is 5-1 in Vogelsong's past six vs. teams with a winning record.

Free MLB Pick: Pirates -139 & Over 9 +104
Best Lines Offered: at Pinnacle

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