The St. Louis Cardinals, who were once 49-24, have finally begun to cool off a little bit. Now they face a tough division rival on Saturday as the Pittsburgh Pirates visit. Who’s the better bet on the MLB lines in this one?
The Pirates, heading into this four-game series with the Cardinals, had begun to heat up. Pittsburgh, well behind St. Louis just a few weeks ago, halved its deficit from a lot (9 games) to a little (4.5 games) by winning five of six; eight of nine; and 10 of 12. The Pirates swept the Detroit Tigers in late June by scoring 22 runs and three games, but a week later, they swept the San Diego Padres with their pitching, not their offense. Pittsburgh gave up a total of five runs in three games versus San Diego.
As for the Cardinals, the torrid pace they had established early was not realistically sustainable, especially without staff ace Adam Wainwright and big-hitting first baseman Matt Adams, who are both expected to miss the entire season. The Cardinals had been defying the odds with their uncommonly great play. Every team goes through a genuine slump during a season, but through 73 games, the Cardinals had avoided it.
Now, though, it seems St. Louis has finally encountered its period of at least moderate difficulty. The Cardinals are just .500 in their last 14 games. They’re not playing poorly, but they’ve lost the consistency which gave them a lead of nine games in the National League Central a few weeks ago. Now, the Cardinals are 4.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and that’s what makes the final two games before the All-Star break – also the final two games of this four-game series – so interesting.
The Cardinals slipped up by splitting four games at home with the Padres and losing a series at home to the White Sox, though Chicago was able to throw ace Chris Sale in one of the games the Cardinals lost. St. Louis also got swept in a doubleheader by the Chicago Cubs this past Tuesday. However, it’s not all downhill for St. Louis. A two-run, two-out homer by Jhonny Peralta in the top of the ninth lifted St. Louis to a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Wednesday for a split of that four-game series. The Cardinals aren’t ascendant right now, but they’re not losing a majority of their games. Even when they’re comparatively worse, they’re not objectively bad.
In the first two games of this series, the teams have basically traded great starts. In game one on Thursday, Carlos Martinez of St. Louis dominated the Pirates, 4-1. On Friday in game two, Gerrit Cole contained the Cardinals, as the Pirates struck back and won, 5-2. Expect these teams to continue to trade punches over the weekend.
With John Lackey going against A.J. Burnett, this game should be very low-scoring. Lackey has a 3.09 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, but his stats look worse because of one awful outing, a four-inning, 10-run nightmare on June 8 at Coors Field in Colorado. In his last five starts, Lackey has given up a grand total of seven runs over 36 innings, which is an ERA of under two runs.
Burnett has an ERA of 1.99 for the season, with a WHIP of 1.21. What’s noticeable about Burnett is that he gives up plenty of hits but usually strands runners. On June 19, he gave up 14 hits to Washington but allowed only three earned runs. On June 25, he gave up eight hits to Cincinnati but only two runs. July 1 against Detroit: seven hits but only one run. Burnett gets tough outs in big situations.
What’s The Pick?
Theses matchups are all going to be hard to pick. The Cards have cooled off and the Pirates are hot on their trail. Pitching is the key to this one and with two good starters on the mound, go under.
MLB Pick: Under at The Greek