MLB Odds: Two Sharp Picks To Boost Your Wallet As Pirates Go Against Brewers

Francisco Liriano

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 6:51 PM GMT

If you are a playoff hopeful like Pittsburgh, you have to take care of business when you are facing off against one of MLB's worst teams. That's the case Thursday as the host Bucs are -170 vs. Milwaukee on MLB odds with a total of 8.5.

What You Need To Know
I feel sort of bad for the small-market Pirates. They have been run really well over the past few years and have one of the most talented overall organizations in baseball when you include the minor-league system. But the Bucs can't really afford that one additional star to put them over the hump. And that hump has been the NL wild-card game the past three years. With St. Louis winning the NL Central in each of those seasons, the Pirates have had to play that one-game playoff. They won it in 2013 (then fell in the NLDS) but lost the past two years.

This year, the Chicago Cubs are going to win the NL Central, and that's without argument. Thus Pittsburgh's only route to the playoffs will again be the wild-card game. That's going to be tough, however, as the Pirates are likely to be battling the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets and Cardinals for those final two spots. Those teams all have more money to spend in potentially adding a key piece by the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The Pirates are looking for starting pitching but aiming fairly low. They don't want to give up a top prospect for a rental -- Pittsburgh stays competitive because of its farm system -- and can't take on a long-term expensive contract like, say, the Texas Rangers did last summer with Cole Hamels.

Pittsburgh did see the return of three key players in Tuesday's 3-2 series-opening win over the Brewers. Starting catcher Francisco Cervelli, one of the better all-around players at his position in the majors, was activated from the DL and had an RBI and a walk. He had missed 31 games with a broken hand. Outfielder Gregory Polanco played for the first time in 11 days due to a hamstring injury and scored a run. And Jameson Taillon, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was activated off the DL and got the start. He had been placed on the DL on June 28 with shoulder fatigue. Disaster nearly struck Tuesday as Taillon was hit in the back of the head by a line drive in the second inning, with the ball then rolling all the way to left field. It looked terrible, but after staying on the ground for several minutes and being tended to, Taillon didn't even leave the game. With MLB's new concussion protocols, that was moderately surprising. Taillon finished six innings, allowing one run and five hits in a no-decision.

As the Brewers? They are already looking toward next season. Milwaukee has traded infielder Aaron Hill. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is almost surely going to be next and relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress (the closer) also are being heavily scouted.

Probable Pitchers
Milwaukee starts veteran right-hander Matt Garza (1-3, 5.74). He got injured this spring and didn't debut in the regular season until mid-June. Garza hasn't been very good overall. Last time out, he allowed four runs and six hits over 5.1 innings in a loss at Cincinnati. It was the fourth straight start Garza allowed at least four earned. He hasn't lasted more than six innings yet. The Brewers are 1-5 on MLB odds in Garza's past six vs. the NL Central.

In 2015, Garza faced Pittsburgh once and took the loss, allowing five runs and seven hits over six innings. Andrew McCutchen is 4-for-15 career off him with a homer and two RBIs. Cervelli is 2-for-8 with two strikeouts. Josh Harrison, who had the walk-off hit Tuesday, is 2-for-13 with an RBI off him.

Pittsburgh goes with struggling lefty and Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano (5-9, 5.11). His problem this season? An MLB-high 62 walks in 98.2 innings. By comparison, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has nine free passes in 121 innings. Liriano lost in Washington in his most recent start, allowing three runs and five hits while walking four in six innings. The Bucs are 2-7 on MLB picks in Liriano's past nine starts.

Last year, Liriano was 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts against the Brewers. Ryan Braun is 7-for-24 career off him with a homer, five RBIs and eight walks. Lucroy is 5-for-26 with two RBIs. Chris Carter is 2-for-6 with a double and two RBIs.

Milwaukee is 1-8 in Garza's past nine vs. teams with a winning record. The Pirates are 9-2 in Liriano's past 11 vs. teams with a losing mark. The 'over' is 7-0 in Garza's past seven on Thursday. The 'over' is 10-2 in Liriano's past 12 vs. teams with a losing record.

MLB Free Picks: Pirates -170 and Over 8½ -115
Best Line Offered: Pirates -170 at TheGreek and Over 8½ -115 at Heritage​

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2993883, "sportsbooksIds":[169,227,118,1275,999993], "LineTypeId":2, "PeriodTypeId":1 }[/]