By: Ron Patrick
Pittsburgh took the opener of this series Friday night 5-0 behind eight great innings from starter Francisco Liriano. With the victory the Pirates moved into a tie for first place in the NL Central with St. Louis, which has been shut out two games in a row.
The Bucs won as -125 favorites on Friday's MLB betting line, and the game played UNDER its total of 7.5.
So first place will be on the line when the teams meet for Game 2 of this series Saturday night (7:05 pm ET).
Saturday's Betting Odds
In early action most books were listing Pittsburgh and AJ Burnett at around -130 MLB odds over St. Louis and Lance Lynn, with an OVER/UNDER of 7.5.
Saturday's Pitching Match-Up
Burnett (6-9, 3.18) is, by our tough standards, 12-for-24 on quality starts this season, but just one for his last four. Last time out he gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings against San Francisco, and over his last four starts he's allowed 15 ER in 24 1/3 innings.
For the season Burnett has permitted 134 hits in 153 innings, walked 56 and struck out 166.
But thanks to some poor run support, especially earlier this year, Pittsburgh is only 10-14 in Burnett's starts this season.
In four starts this year against the Cardinals Burnett has allowed eight ER and 17 hits in 24 1/3 innings; the Pirates won three of those four games.
Lynn (13-8, 4.02) is 14-for-27 on quality starts this year, but 0 for his last three. Last time out he gave up four runs in seven innings against Atlanta, and over his last three starts he's allowed 12 ER and 26 hits in 18 1/3 innings.
On the season Lynn has given up 153 hits in 168 innings, walked 62 and struck out 168.
St. Louis won 12 of Lynn's first 15 starts this year, but has lost eight of his last 12 outings.
In four starts this year against Pittsburgh Lynn has allowed 10 ER and 20 hits in 23 1/3 innings; the Cardinals split those four games.
Don't forget to review our picks on the Orioles vs. Yankees!
Our Take on Saturday's Game
This is a tough one; we give Burnett the edge in the pitching match-up, but neither starter has been great as of late. The Cardinals own an edge with the bats, but they haven't scored a run since Tuesday. That St. Louis line-up isn't usually quiet for long, though, and in cases of close calls we usually go with the better price. So we'll go with the Cardinals for our free MLB pick for Saturday.
Pick: Take St. Louis at the +118 offered at the Greek.
By: Ron Patrick
The Pirates took four of five games from the Cardinals in a week-long series in Pittsburgh one month ago, but St. Louis has rallied to re-take first place in the NL Central. How should we approach this series from a betting perspective?
Friday's Cardinals-Pirates Betting Lines
As of Friday morning most baseball betting outlets were listing Pittsburgh and Francisco Liriano at around -125 over St. Louis and Shelby Miller, with an OVER/UNDER of seven.
Also, TheGreek.com was chalking the Pirates at MLB odds of -125 to win this series, with the Cardinals getting +105.
Cardinals-Pirates Series Set-Up
Pittsburgh just dropped two of three games at home to fourth-place Milwaukee, losing the series rubber match Thursday 4-0. The Pirates have lost four of their last six series, splitting one, and dropped 12 of their last 19 games.
St. Louis, meanwhile, just took two of three games at home from Cincinnati, losing Wednesday's series finale 10-0. The Cardinals have won five series in a row and 12 of their last 17 games.
So, heading into the weekend St. Louis leads the NL Central by a single game over second-place Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are also tied with the Dodgers in the battle for the best record in the National League, three games behind Atlanta, while the Pirates also lead the NL wild-card race by 2.5 games over Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh leads the season series with St. Louis eight games to five, with the totals going 8-4-1.
Friday's Pitching Match-Up
Liriano (14-6, 2.74) is 13-for-20 on quality starts this season, and two for his last three. Last time out he gave up four runs and nine hits in four innings at San Francisco, but in his two starts previous to that he held the Padres and these Cardinals to one run through 16 innings, with 19 strikeouts.
On the season Liriano has allowed 105 hits in 125 innings, walked 49 and struck out 129.
Liriano is also 7-1 with a sparkling 1.39 ERA at PNC Park this season.
The Pirates have won 14 of Liriano's 20 starts this year.
In two starts this season against the Cardinals Liriano has held them to two ER and eight hits in 16 innings; Pittsburgh won both those games.
Miller (12-8, 2.90) is 11-for-25 on quality starts this year, and two for his last three. Last time out he held Atlanta to one run on three hits through seven innings, and over his last three starts he's given up six ER through 18 1/3 innings.
For the season Miller has allowed 119 hits in 139 2/3 innings, walked 41 and struck out 151.
But on the road this year Miller is only 5-5 with a 4.04 ERA.
St. Louis is 16-9 in Miller's starts this season.
In three starts this year vs. Pittsburgh Miller has allowed eight ER and 21 hits in 17 2/3 innings; St. Louis lost all three of those games.
In the battle of the bullpens for this series the Pirates rank third in the Majors with a 2.80 ERA and have converted 43 of 54 save opportunities, while the Cardinals rank 14th with a 3.56 ERA and are 37-for-53 on save opps.
Cardinals-Pirates With the Sticks
St. Louis ranks third in the Majors with a team OBP of .333, just 27th in homers with 106 but third in scoring at 4.9 runs per game.
Pittsburgh ranks 18th in team OBP at .313, 18th in homers with 126 and just 23rd in scoring at 3.9 RPG.
Cardinals-Pirates Betting Trends
Pittsburgh is 43-24 at home this year.
St. Louis is 37-30 on the road.
The Pirates are 63-44 against right-handed starters this season.
On the other hand, the Cardinals, who are 23 games above .500 overall, are just 15-20 vs. lefties this year.
The OVER/UNDERS are 26-38 in games played at PNC Park this season.
Pittsburgh is playing without OF Sterling Marte (.343 OBP, 79 runs, 35 stolen bases), who's on the DL with a sprained hand. Also, closer Jason Grilli (30 saves, 2.34 ERA) is still on the DL with a strained arm.
Our Take on Friday's Game
This is a tough one; St. Louis is the hotter team, but Liriano gets the edge in the pitching match-up, because he's been very tough in two previous starts vs. the Cardinals this year. And St. Louis is a sub-.500 team vs. lefties. The Cardinals are better with the bats, while the Pirates own an edge in the bullpens. But Pittsburgh might be feeling a little pressure as it tries to secure that long-awaited playoff spot, so ultimately we're going to go with our gut and take St. Louis as a slight underdog for our free MLB pick for Friday.