Bet Pirates -110 Over Braves as They Push for NL Wild Card

Willie Bee

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 1:25 PM GMT

The Pittsburgh Pirates look to inch closer to clinching a playoff spot when they continue their MLB series Tuesday night in Atlanta against the Braves.

Heads have started to roll in Atlanta where the Braves canned GM Frank Wren on Monday following another late-season collapse that has seen the club go 4-15 in September.  Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the Pirates might soon be handing out contract extensions after a strong finish has them destined for a 2nd-straight postseason appearance.

 

Pittsburgh hasn't officially wrapped up a spot in the NL playoffs, but that could come Tuesday night when the Pirates take on the Braves in a 7:10 PM start at Turner Field.  A couple of talented young hurlers will square off as Gerrit Cole gets the nod for the Bucs opposite Atlanta's Alex Wood.  Pittsburgh is slightly favored with SBR's live MLB odds showing 6.5 for the total, and the 'under' carrying extra tax.

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The Pirates opened the series with a 1-0 victory on Monday, their 2nd-consecutive 1-0 win and 14th dubya in the last 17 games.  The triumph evened the season series between the Braves and Bucs, 2-2, and also leveled the totals 2-2 O/U in the four clashes.  The win left Pittsburgh tied with San Francisco at the top of the NL Wild Card race, and only 2.5-games behind St. Louis for the NL Central crown.

 

Wood Hopes For Help From Lineup
This could be Cole's final trip to the mound before the playoffs, though he is in line to start the season finale in Cincinnati this Sunday.  All of that will depend on how Iron City manager Clint Hurdle aligns his rotation for the NL Wild Card game and rest of the postseason, but assuming the Bucs have officially secured a spot by Game 162, Cole won't be extended too deep into Sunday's game even if he does start it.

The former UCLA Bruin has endured just one hiccup since returning from a 7-week stay on the DL in August, and the Pirates are 5-1 behind their righty in that span. His first start back on August 20 came against the Braves; in fact, that was his first-ever look at Atlanta and Cole responded with seven strong innings to earn a no-decision in Pittsburgh's 3-2 home win.

With a little help from the Atlanta offense, Wood could be turning a pretty nice profit for those backing him with their MLB picks in 2014.  He has recorded a 2.59 ERA in his 23 starts, compared to 4.69 in 11 relief appearances, but the Braves only managed to win 10 of the 23 assignments to begin a game.

Wood was Cole's counterpart in the August 20 matchup in Pittsburgh, both hurlers putting in seven full innings of work and allowing two runs.  Wood started the eighth with a shutout intact before putting the first two Pirate batters on with a walk and a double that led to their late rally to win it.

 

Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Umpire crews are known to switch things up this time of year, but assuming Jerry Layne's crew holds rotation on Tuesday, Hunter Wendelstedt will call balls and strikes.  The 17 year veteran has been on a bit of an 'over' kick lately, four of his last six plate assignments skipping past totals with the other two pushing the marks, leaving him 11-12-4 O/U/P for the year.  He has called two of Wood's starts, an 'under' on a 6.5 run total and a push on a 7.

Weather will not be an issue in Atlanta on Tuesday, nor will it be for the remainder of this series.  The forecast says 72º at first pitch without a cloud in the sky, pitchers possibly benefitting a little from an 8-10 mph ENE wind (in from right-center).

A pretty good case for the 'under' can be made in tonight's tilt, but I'm going to ride the hotter team with as one of my free picks and make a play on the Pirates as small road chalk.

My MLB pick: Pirates -110

Season: 121-118 (+1.90)