The Pirates are decided favorites on the MLB odds Thursday night when they welcome AJ Burnett back from the DL to pitch the series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Pittsburgh Pirates won the final two games and two of three series on their latest road trip. Nevertheless, manager Clint Hurdle and his crew are very happy to be home for the next eight games as they continue to try and chase down St. Louis in the NL Central race.
The only trouble the Pirates had on the recent journey came in Milwaukee, and they'll get a chance to redeem themselves with a long 4-game set against the Brewers beginning Thursday (7:05 PM ET). Veteran AJ Burnett is returning from the DL to start for Pittsburgh, SBR's live baseball odds showing the Bucs to be a favorite in the low-to-mid -160s on the moneyline.
Milwaukee counters on the mound with Wily Peralta, the 8 run total at 5Dimes priced at -125 on the 'under' and showing signs of dipping to 7½ by game time.
The Brewers have given the Pirates fits the past couple of seasons, which just goes to show you how strange baseball can be since it comes while Pittsburgh is on the uptick. After winning 12 of 19 last year, Milwaukee owns nine dubyas in the 15 clashes so far in 2015 and winning the last six in a row, all of those at Miller Park, and each of the last three series.
Pittsburgh has taken four of the six played at PNC, however, and seven of the last 10 contested in Iron City. Seven of the last 10 failed to make it to the MLB odds, the only two 'over' winners this year just making it past 7½ run totals.
Brew Crew Wraps Roadie With Stop In Iron City
Milwaukee (61-78 -16.4 units) lost its last two games in Miami this week, but had been playing pretty well overall this month before the setbacks. The Brewers hit the road after sweeping the Pirates and have so far split their six games in Cincinnati and Miami on this road trip that concludes here in Pittsburgh. Once this series is done, four of their final six series are against the Cardinals and Cubs, making them a big factor in the NL playoff race.
Peralta's last start was cut short because of rain in Cincinnati, the righthander's evening ending after only two scoreless innings and 39 pitches. The end result was Milwaukee's fourth win in his last five starts, though only two of those have met the criteria for quality starts.
A short stint on the DL with an oblique injury is partly behind Peralta not having faced the Pirates yet this year, and just the second time he's been on the bump in Pittsburgh. He pitched well enough to win just a little less than a year ago, but fell victim to a 1-0 decision authored by Pittsburgh's Vance Worley.
Rain In Pittsburgh Forecast Next Few Days
The fact that Pittsburgh (83-55, +17.2 units) started the recent road trip by being swept in Milwaukee should not have come as much of a surprise. The Pirates have always struggled when facing the Brewers on the road, winning less than a third of the last 126 they've played there, and they have now suffered consecutive sweeps at Miller Park where the Bucs have won just two of their last 11. Pittsburgh has actually been a decent road team this season other than stops in Milwaukee, the Pirates 34-27 (.557) in their other road tilts.
A cranky elbow shelved Burnett at the end of July, his last three starts before finally caving to a DL trip resulting in the 38 year old posting a 10+ ERA. It should provide an emotional lift for the team as Burnett begins the final few weeks of his career in front of an appreciative Pittsburgh crowd. He was strong against the Brewers on this mound just prior to the all-star break (7 IP, 1 ER), only to lose the game when Pirates hitters were blanked by Jimmy Nelson and a trio of relievers.
There's a chance of rain Thursday and the entire weekend in Pittsburgh, so bettors will want to check the latest forecast before going to the window. I like Burnett in his return to the mound, and will play the home team on the run line for my free MLB pick.
My pick: Pirates -1½ (+135) @ 5Dimes