Thursday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
It was a good night for hitters at PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates won their second straight over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. Favored to win both games, however, the Bucs now face pulling off the sweep as underdogs.
Matt Cain is San Francisco's first line of defense to avoid a winless stop in Pittsburgh before heading to Atlanta this weekend. The Giants opened as -125 chalk, but overnight action on the MLB odds drove that number down about 15¢. The Pirates send Charlie Morton to the hill for his 2013 debut and the 7.5 run total we saw in Game 2 is back.
Pittsburgh's list of batting stars in Wednesday's 12-8 win is long after jumping on San Fran starter Barry Zito early and continuing the assault on Giant relievers. Francisco Liriano got the win, though it was not a stellar outing for the lefty by any means, and Pittsburgh's reliable bullpen also got kicked around in a contest that belonged to the bats.
The Pirates will be going for their first series sweep at home over the Giants since May of 2008, coincidentally when they beat Zito and Cain in the final two games of the set to break out the brooms.
Cain's results have been about as streaky as possible, the Giants losing his first five starts while his ERA was over 6.00, winning his next six assignments when he pitched to a 3.85 ERA, and now dropping his two outings in June (5.54 ERA). Two horrible innings in two games vs. St. Louis are driving his 5.09 season ERA, and Cain has enjoyed pretty good success against many of the hitters in the Pirates lineup.
Morton has also done a decent job vs. San Fran over the years dating back to his days in Atlanta, and the really good news is he won't have to face Giants outfielder Angel Pagan (9-for-12 off Morton lifetime) tonight. Out for almost exactly one year due to Tommy John surgery, Morton recorded a 3.32 ERA in nine rehab outings (40.2 IP).
Rain avoided Wednesday's game to beat some big odds, but Pittsburgh is unlikely to escape showers and possible thunderstorms on Thursday. The chance of rain does decrease as game time approaches, but all signs point to at least a damp evening with a 15-20 NNW wind (out to center/right-center).
Behind the plate calling the offerings by Cain and Morton should be Tim McClelland. Four of his last five games have jumped the number to bring him to a 7-4-2 O/U/P mark on the season.
My play will be more of a go-against on the Pirates pulling off the sweep than a wager on the Giants. Stay with us this weekend when we stay in Pittsburgh with previews and free picks on the Pirates-Dodgers series.
My pick: Giants -111 at Bet365
Wednesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Gerrit Cole not only brought a blazing fastball to the mound for his MLB debut Tuesday night, he also brought his bat to the plate to help the Pittsburgh Pirates take the series opener against the San Francisco Giants.
Cole delivered in his first game, working into the seventh inning while knocking in the Bucs' first two runs off his San Francisco counterpart Tim Lincecum who failed to make it through the fifth. The former No. 1 pick out of UCLA will get his next chance to shine Sunday against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game we will cover here at SBR.
As interesting as Game 1's initial pitching matchup was, Wednesday's second of three contest is only a short step down in intrigue. The all-lefty clash has Barry Zito up for San Fran against Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano, and the Pirates are decided favorites with a -175 line on the MLB odds along with a 7.5 run total.
Zito has been something of an enigma this season, which is par for the course since he joined the Giants before the 2007 season. The Las Vegas native has flashed a few starts that reminded you of the stud we saw in his 2002 AL Cy Young season with Oakland, and thrown batting practice in some of his other assignments. One of those was April 16 in Milwaukee where his string of 16-straight winning starts was snapped.
'Planet Zito' has also been a bit quirky in his career vs. the Pirates that has worked out to a 3.73 overall ERA in seven assignments, all with the Giants. San Francisco is 3-0 in his last three turns vs. the Bucs after a 1-3 mark the first four, and Zito is 1-2 in Pittsburgh only to have pitched better in the two losses (11.1 IP, 4 ER) than the one win (5/4).
This is Liriano's cherry vs. the Giants, and it leaves just three MLB teams he has yet to face along the way (Marlins, Nats & Phils). He has a shot to cross all three of those teams off his list before the end of July, especially if he keeps pitching the has for the Pirates so far. The Dominican has been outstanding overall with a 1.75 ERA in six assignments, and even better at PNC Park where Liriano is 2-1 with an ERA that begins with zero-point, always a good way to begin an ERA.
Nasty storms are in the Pittsburgh forecast today and this evening, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the start of the game delayed. Marvin Hudson (8-6 O/U) is next up in the umpire rotation for plate duty.
Pittsburgh has been tough at home (22-11) but has struggled vs. lefties (6-7). I'm tempted to play the Bucs on the run line, but will instead take my chances with the OVER. Don't miss the analysis and free pick for Wednesday's series finale in Baltimore between the Orioles and Angels.
My pick: Giants-Pirates Over 7.5 (+103) at Bet365
Tuesday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
It was just a little more than six years ago that a slightly-built righthander with long locks and an impressive amateur and minor league track record arrived on the MLB scene. Though he has cut his hair and fallen on tougher times in the last year, Tim Lincecum has since won two Cy Young Awards and picked up a couple of World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants.
Tuesday marks the big league arrival of another righthander with a solid résumé. Gerrit Cole is a bigger physical specimen than Lincecum, but he is expected to deliver just the same for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A couple of playoff hopefuls meet for the first time this year in a 3-game set which begins tonight, and the mound clash between Lincecum and Cole is intriguing to say the least. The folks who set the MLB odds are giving Cole a lot of respect in his debut, installing the rookie as -120 chalk. A 7.5 run total is also on the baseball betting board.
The series is important to both clubs in their division races. Pittsburgh (37-26) has the 4th-best record in the NL, but that's only good enough for third in the NL Central, four games behind St. Louis. San Fran begins the set two games behind Arizona in the NL West and tied with Colorado for second place.
Cole's Debut Follows Rapid Rise Through Bucs System
The top pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA, Cole got his first taste of the bigs during spring training this past March with 10 official innings and a 3.60 ERA while limiting hitters to a .216 average. He shot through the Pittsburgh system in 2012 at three different levels, and started this year back at Triple-A Indianapolis where he posted a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts.
Cole definitely has the potential to be a 200+ K staff ace, but his strikeouts were down a bit while in the minors since April (47 K/68 IP). Scouting reports say he was working on his changeup more the past couple of months, but we probably won't see too many of those Tuesday night when 90% of his offerings should be a mid-90s fastball and hard slider.
Lincecum is having a little better year so far than 2012, but not by much. May was a bit of a disaster with a 6.37 ERA and only one quality start among the six that month, and he only has three quality efforts among his 12 assignments this season. Still, the Giants have managed to win more (7) than they've lost (5) with Lincecum on the mound.
He would just as soon forget his last appearance at PNC Park which came in July 2012; Lincecum failed to get out of the fourth having already surrendered six runs and two homers.
Giants Lead All-Time Series That Dates Back To 1887
The Pirates' first season in the National League was way back in 1887, and since then the Giants have visited Pittsburgh for 1,060 regular season games. Fourteen of those contests were deemed ties either due to rain or darkness. Of the remaining 1,046 clashes, it's split down the middle at 523 wins apiece.
San Francisco won two of the three played at PNC Park last season, with OVER bettors also cashing twice.
Everything looks good on the weather front in Iron City tonight, but that may change going forward this week. Look for the low-to-mid 70s and muggy conditions with a 10-14 mph westerly breeze (out to left) at game time.
I'm going to jump on the Gerrit Cole bandwagon immediately with a play on the Pirates. Don't get away from SBR without checking out the Game 2 preview for the series in Baltimore between the Angels and Orioles.My pick: Pirates -117 at Bet365