Pittsburgh rides an eight-game winning streak into a weekend series in DC Friday night. This handicapper loves hot teams, especially when they're going up against struggling outfits.
Pirates-Nats Friday Betting Odds
As of this writing early Friday morning the MLB betting market was holding off on lining this game, due to a Washington pitching change and a key injury.
Pittsburgh just swept four games from the White Sox this week, allowing a total of four runs in four games. Last weekend the Pirates swept three games from Philadelphia. So Pittsburgh has won eight games in a row, and at 39-27 now trails division-leading St. Louis by four games in the NL Central. The Pirates also lead the National League wild-card race.
Pittsburgh's recent runs comes thanks mainly to its pitching, because Pirates bats have been held to three runs or less in nine of their last 11 games.
Washington, meanwhile, just dropped three of four games to Tampa Bay this week. Just before that the Nats split four games with a bad Brewers team; just before that they split two games with the Yankees; just before that they lost three of four against the Cubs; just before that they lost two of three to Toronto; and just before that they got swept three games by Cincinnati. So Washington is 0-4-2 in its last six series, and 6-14 over its last 20 games.
At 34-33 the Nats trail first-place New York by a game and a half in the NL East, and sit 2.5 games back in the battle for the second National League wild-card spot.
This is the first meeting between these teams this season. Last year the Nats took the season series with the Pirates four games to three, with those games averaging a shade over seven runs per.
Friday's Pitching Match-Up
Ross (1-1, 3.46) is one-for-two on quality starts since joining the Washington rotation two weeks ago. First, he gave up three runs in five innings against the Cubs, walking none while whiffing four; then last Saturday he held Milwaukee to two runs through eight innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts. The Nats are 1-1 in Ross' starts, with the totals splitting 1-1.
Ross got the call to the Majors in part because the Washington rotation has been depleted by injury, and partly because he posted a 2.81 ERA in nine starts down at AA-Harrisburg this spring.
This will be Ross' first-ever start against Pittsburgh, and we always believe the advantage in that situation resides with the pitcher, at least for the first few times through the lineup.
Burnett (6-2, 1.89) is 10/13 on quality starts this season, and two for his last two. Eleven days ago he held Milwaukee to one run through seven innings, and last Sunday he tossed nine innings of five-hit, shutout ball against Philadelphia. On the season Burnett has allowed fewer hits, 73, than innings pitched, 85 2/3, and just three home runs; the Pirates are 8-5 in Burnett's starts, with the totals leaning UNDER 7-5.
Last year, pitching for Philadelphia, Burnett started six times against Washington, giving up 14 ERA through 35 1/3 innings; the Phillies, who finished 16 games under .500 last year, won four of those games.
Totals Betting Trends
Games played at Nationals Park this season are 16-13 on the OVERS, even though they're only averaging 7.4 runs per.
Pittsburgh is 10-1 on the UNDERS in its last 11 games.
Washington MVP candidate Bryce Harper tweaked a hamstring Thursday, left the game, and his status for Friday is uncertain. The Nats are already playing without OF Jayson Werth and 3B Ryan Zimmerman, so they could be down three regular bats.
Pirates-Nationals Free Picks
Pittsburgh is hot, Washington is not, and the Nats are shorthanded. We like the Pirates to take the opener of this series. Also, in expectation of a low-scoring affair we're thinking UNDER.
MLB Picks: Pittsburgh & UNDER