By: Willie Bee
What a difference three days, and four games, can make. The Pittsburgh Pirates continued their assault on the St. Louis Cardinals with a fourth consecutive win on Wednesday, and can now go for a rare 5-game sweep when the clubs conclude their long series tonight.
Pittsburgh is a short favorite in the -115 to -125 range to complete the broom job over the Cardinals who have dropped seven straight following Thursday's 5-4 setback, a game in which they held three separate 2-run leads. Joe Kelly is on tap to pitch the finale for St. Louis while the Bucs send Charlie Morton to the hill, and the MLB odds are offering an 8 run total (U-120) after the first four games split the scoreboard betting marks.
Putting up zeroes for more than six innings last Saturday in Atlanta still wasn't enough for Kelly to get a win. Braves pitchers were also keeping the Cardinals off the pay station in that contest, and St. Louis's bullpen couldn't complete what Kelly started in a 2-0 Atlanta victory. That was Kelly's first start in more than two weeks, and the Cards won both of his July outings prior to the setback to the Braves.
Kelly faced the Pirates three times in April out of the bullpen; two of the appearances resulted in three scoreless frames while the third saw Kelly charged with four runs in just a third of an inning.
Pittsburgh has won Morton's last three starts with the big righthander allowing eight runs in the 18.2 combined innings. He will be facing St. Louis for the first time in 2013, and his previous experiences with the Cardinals have netted him a 2-7 record along with an ERA in excess of six. Matt Holliday and Allen Craig are a combined 13-for-30 (.433) against Morton who is glad to see Yadier Molina (.444, 4 doubles) out of their lineup.
The umpires have kept us guessing a bit this week by employing a 5-man rotation during this 5-game series, and snuck their fifth wheel, Cory Blaser, behind the plate for Wednesday's game. The only member of the crew not to work the plate so far is Chad Fairchild (10-11 O/U season, 3-1 O/U last four) who would figure to call balls and strikes tonight. If not Fairchild, it could be crew chief Jeff Kellogg (13-10 O/U) who worked the Pirates' 9-2 win in Game 1 and took Wednesday night off.
Daytime showers are expected to give way to a mostly clear, though muggy, evening in Pittsburgh. Make sure to get the latest weather updates before making your wager.
The Redbirds are struggling as much if not more than they have in a few seasons right now, but I also don't have much confidence in Morton. I'm going to conclude this series with a play on the lineups and make my free pick on the OVER.
By: Willie Bee
Head over to our Daily Baseball Betting Odds & Lines Report for a breakdown of today's games!
Move over, St. Louis, there's a new sheriff in town. The Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off a sweep in Tuesday's doubleheader, limiting the Cardinals offense to just one run in 20 innings, to move into first place in the National League Central with the best record in the majors. What MLB picks can we get out of today's match?
St. Louis will now call on ace Adam Wainwright to stop their skid at six when the clubs meet Wednesday with ESPN's cameras on hand for the 7 p.m. ET start. The Cardinals are slight -120 favorites despite their recent struggles, and they'll face Pirates rookie Jeff Locke with the MLB odds showing a 7 run total that is priced to the ‘Under’.
Pittsburgh needed 11 innings to take a 2-1 victory in Tuesday's first game, then skated to a 6-0 triumph in the nightcap behind fill-in starter Brandon Cumpton's right arm. Cumpton and Jeanmar Gomez combined on the 3-hitter, the second time the Cards have been blanked on this trip that has seen their lineup held to just six runs in the six tilts.
Wainwright will be glad to see the end of July, his worst month this season though it would be a pretty good month for most other hurlers. St. Louis has won three of this five assignments while Wainwright posted a 3.50 ERA, and the Redbirds are 15-7 overall in his 22 starts.
Wednesday will be his first start this season vs. the Pirates who have been a bit of thorn in Wainwright's side over the years (5.20 career ERA). His last five starts at PNC Park resulted in a 5.96 ERA while St. Louis went 3-2.
Locke is just an out shy of seven consecutive quality starts with the lefty pitching to a 1.74 ERA, but his lineup came up dry with just two runs in the three games Pittsburgh has dropping during the string. He has still been plagued by control issues at times, such as last Friday when he issued six free passes in a setback at Miami. Locke was brilliant in St. Louis back in April (7 IP, 0 R, 3 H), cashing as a +185 road 'dog in his only experience against the Cardinals.
Don't forget to also read today's Daily Pitching Report for our analysis of the day's matchups!
We did see a little wrinkle in the umpire crew on Tuesday when Cory Blaser was brought aboard to work first and third bases in the doubleheader. The regular rotation behind the plate, Eric Cooper and Paul Schrieber, did hold, however, and we expect to see Chad Fairchild calling balls and strikes tonight. Fairchild sports a 10-11 O/U on the season, but three of his last four plate assignments went ‘Over’.
Bettors will want to check the weather before going to the window as there's a chance of rain in Pittsburgh this afternoon and into the evening. None of the rain is expected to be heavy, and the first pitch should see the thermometer in the mid-70s.
Pitching was the dominant factor on Tuesday, and there's no reason to think it won't be tonight. My free MLB Pick in Game 4 will be on the ‘Under’.
Tuesday's Game 1
By: Willie Bee
Be sure to check out Tuesday's Baseball Betting Odds & Lines Report!
Bonus baseball is on tap Tuesday in Pittsburgh where the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals continue their crucial series. The Pirates ran roughshod over the Cardinals in the opener on Monday to pull within a half-game of St. Louis in the National League Central, and the momentum is clearly on Pittsburgh's side for Tuesday's twinbill.
Both managers have played a little cat-&-mouse for the doubleheader as far as their starting pitchers go. Mike Matheny originally lined up the hurlers for St. Louis, losers of four straight, with Tyler Lyons working the first game followed by Lance Lynn, but switched that up to have Lynn start the matinee. Clint Hurdle is going to send veteran AJ Burnett to the bump to oppose Lynn and has not announced his starter for the second game, though some speculation is it will be Jeanmar Gomez.
That uncertainty kept both games from going out on the overnight MLB odds release. Numbers were finally released for the first game that has the Bucs -120 favorites with a 7 run total. Odds for the second game should be available soon once the starting pitcher matchup is known.
Lynn bounced back from a couple of rough outings with a victory last Thursday over the Phils that helped get his REA back below 4.00. He beat the Pirates twice in April, one a game he needed his offense to come to the rescue in Pittsburgh and the other a strong effort in St. Louis.
Don't forget to read today's Daily Pitching Report for our analysis of the day's matchups!
Poor fielding worked against Burnett in his last two starts; six of the nine runs he allowed in Pittsburgh road losses at Cincinnati and Washington were unearned, all of those coming plateward in the first innings. This is his third go at the Cardinals in 2013, and Burnett beat them the first two tries, including seven innings of 1-hit ball in a 5-0 victory at PNC Park on April 17.
Lyons was recalled from Triple-A Memphis where he's been working since late-June. The former Okie State star made a big splash in May when he was first called up when Jaime Garcia was lost for the season. But after two winning efforts in which he worked seven innings and allowed just one run in each contest, Lyons got banged around in the subsequent four assignments, all St. Louis losses while he surrendered 18 runs in 18.2 frames.
If it is Gomez for the Pirates in tonight's tilt, it will be his first start in July after serving as something of a lucky charm for the Bucs in eight May and June starts. Pittsburgh won all eight contests while the Venezuelan posted a 2.80 ERA. His only career appearance vs. the Redbirds was a long relief outing in St. Louis in April (4.1 IP, 3 ER).
Umpire crews are known to shake things up when they're working a doubleheader, but if all goes according to plan we should see Eric Cooper (6-14-1 O/U/P) behind the plate in the first game of the twinbill followed by Paul Schrieber (5-12-5 O/U/P) in the second. A few clouds are in the Pittsburgh forecast today, but only a 20% chance of afternoon precipitation and most of both games should be played in the 70s on the thermometer with little to no wind.
It's always dangerous to try and outguess a streak, such as the losing run the Cards are on, but I like them for my MLB picks as small underdogs in today's first game. Bettors will need to check back for MLB odds and sports pick for the second game.
Monday Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
For more MLB betting info, don't forget to read our Daily Baseball Odds & Lines Report!
Don't get your panties in a wad if you're a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals or Pittsburgh Pirates. Two of the top 5 teams in the majors didn't really get slighted on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball broadcast that features the Angels at the Rangers, and the self-anointed leader in sports will give this set the prime-time marquee on Wednesday in a mound duel between pitchers selected to the National League All-Star team.
Granted, neither Adam Wainwright nor Jeff Locke, Wednesday's scheduled starters, actually appeared in the All-Star Game at Citi Field, but then, none of that really matters for Monday's opener in the 5-game series at PNC Park. The elongated set between the best two squads from the Senior Circuit includes a doubleheader on Tuesday due to a rainout in mid-April. Who should you add to your MLB picks this time around?
The series gets underway with a matchup of hurlers that last faced each other as American League rivals in 2010 when Jake Westbrook was employed by the Indians and Francisco Liriano worked for the Twins. Liriano beat Westbrook in that July 2010 clash and is carrying the -150 chalk line for this contest on the MLB odds. Monday's scoreboard tally is 7 and priced 25¢ to the 'Over' at most baseball betting outlets.
Check out today's Daily Pitching Report for our analysis of the day's pitching selections!
Westbrook Seeks First Win At PNC Park
The brunt of Westbrook's matchups with the Pirates have obviously come since he was dealt from Cleveland to St. Louis in 2010, but his distaste for trips into Pittsburgh goes back to his days with the Tribe. The sinkerballer has never -I repeat, not once- appeared in a game on the Pirates' diamond that his teams won. That's 0-10 as a reliever in five games for the Indians and five starting assignments for the Cards.
Westbrook is enjoying a fine month of July so far with the Redbirds 3-1 in his outings while he's kept his ERA below three. He's also kept the ball in the yard with a current string of 26.1 IP without allowing a homer.
Liriano and the Bucs are also 3-1 in July, and any starting pitcher to decision in his first 14 starts with a 2.23 ERA is worth his weight in gold. The Dominican has been money at PNC Park as well with a 1.67 ERA and 5-1 mark. Liriano could be 13-1 right now with a little offensive support.
The last, and only, time Liriano faced the Cardinals was on their diamond in St. Louis about 49 months ago while he was still with Minnesota. Three of Liriano's losses this season have come against the Reds, and he's 5-0 vs. the Cubs and Brewers to complete his bouts vs. NL Central opponents.
Series History Dates Back To 1882
Monday's contest is the first of 14 games remaining on the schedule between the two old rivals that first met as American Association foes in 1882. The Pirates own a 1,187-1,103 all-time edge in NL action vs. the Cardinals, but the Redbirds have done very well at PNC Park since it opened in 2001 (63-38, .623).
The teams split the rain-shortened series in April on this diamond, with the Bucs taking two of three in the follow-up series at Busch Stadium. Seven of the last nine played in Pittsburgh stayed 'Under' the total.
It should be a nice night in Iron City with mostly clear skies, a first-pitch temp in the low-70s and light 8-10 mph breeze from the west (out to left). The best chance for Mother Nature to interfere with this series is on Thursday.
This is a huge road trip for the Cardinals, who started it by losing all three in Atlanta and will have to take on the Reds in Cincinnati following this series. I'm thinking their 3-game skid, as well as Westbrook's tough luck in Pittsburgh, comes to an end tonight. I'll be backing the underdog Cards for my free sports pick in Game 1.
MLB pick: Bet the Cardinals +135 at Bet365