Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
It took 10 innings and a rally from an early three-zip hole, but the Atlanta Braves got their fourth straight dubya Tuesday night and can complete a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates today.
A noon matinee is on tap for the series finale (12:10 PM ET), and the Braves are priced in the -135 to -140 range at most betting outlets monitored by SBR's live MLB odds. Pittsburgh will send Wandy Rodriguez to the mound against Atlanta's Julio Teheran, with baseball bettors having to make a decision on a 7.5 or 8 run total, depending where they go to the window.
Andrelton Simmons drove home the winner with a double one out deep into the bottom of the 10th to give Atlanta the 5-4 victory in Game 2, helping to keep the Braves seven games up on the Nationals in the NL East. Atlanta also maintained the best home record in the majors (20-7) with the triumph, and can post the first home sweep of the Pirates since May 2010 today before embarking on a 7-game road trip through Los Angeles and San Diego.
Rodriguez closed May the same way he opened the month with a tough-luck loss last Friday to the Reds. The lefty surrendered just two runs over seven frames, but Pittsburgh's lineup couldn't score against Johnny Cueto. He baffled the Braves in Pittsburgh back in April, allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings, and the Bucs are 4-1 in his five road starts (5.96 ERA).
We last saw Teheran this past Friday when he opened the Braves' series against the Nationals. Teheran worked into the seventh and allowed all three Washington runs in a 3-2 loss, the club's second straight with him on the mound and third in his last four starts.
Before that stretch, the Braves won six straight starts made by the Colombian, including a 6-4 decision in Pittsburgh on April 18. Teheran didn't figure into the decision, allowing all four Pirates runs in his five innings, including long balls by Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez.
Crew chief Gerry Davis was originally slated to have the plate for the finale, but he took off after Monday's opener and it appears Brian Knight (6-7 O/U) will instead call the balls and strikes today. Cloudy skies and a chance for a stray thunderstorm are in the forecast; the threat of rain increases as the afternoon goes on.
The first two games of the series skipped above the totals, but I like the UNDER this afternoon for my sports picks in Game 3.
My pick: Pirates-Braves Under 8 (-110)
Tuesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Everybody who expected a pitching matchup between Jeff Locke and Mike Minor to have any significance this season, raise your left hand. Yep, me neither.
A 12-3 record between the southpaws who each own an ERA in the lower-half of the 2's, Locke and Minor will indeed engage in a crucial contest on Tuesday. It's game 2 of the set between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, and while other duels will get more attention on the June 4 slate, this is my pick for the most intriguing clash of hurlers.
Atlanta is understandably drawing a sizeable chalk line on the MLB odds board with Braves backers needing to lay about $1.65. A 7 run total that is split pretty evenly high and low is also available.
Three home runs backed Kris Medlen's effort on the mound in Monday's series opener. Brian McCann's 2-run shot in the fourth put Atlanta ahead to stay, with blasts in the fifth by Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward sending the game out of reach for the Pirates who watched AJ Burnett turn in his worst starting assignment of the season.
Locke brings nearly a 20-inning string of scoreless baseball into this battle and is the most underrated rookie in the National League right now. A former 2nd-round pick by Atlanta in 2006, the Granite State product broke camp as the No. 5 in Pittsburgh's rotation, and has pitched more like a No. 1 or No. 2 in leading the staff with an ERA of two-&-a-quarter.
Bettors following Locke so far are up five units, among the top 15 returns in the majors, and he will be trying to make up for a poor performance against the Braves earlier this year in Pittsburgh.
Atlanta actually has a better record behind Minor (8-3) than the Bucs do with Locke on the Hill (7-4), but Minor's return is about a buck-fifty lighter than Locke's. That's because of the Braves brand, and the fact more is expected from Minor. He has delivered for the most part, pushing the Braves into the winner's circle each of the last five times out while pitching to a 1.58 ERA in that stretch.
Mark Carlson should be under the mask calling balls and strikes this evening, and brings a 4-6-1 O/U/P mark into the affair. Two of the UNDERS involved games the Pirates were visitors.
Atlanta has delivered the cheddar against lefties this season, winning 12 of 18, and some of their hitters who had been struggling are showing signs of getting it together. I'll add the Braves on the run line to my baseball picks tonight.My pick: Braves -1.5 (+140) at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
Will this be the year the Pittsburgh Pirates snap their long-running streak of futility which currently stands at 20 consecutive losing seasons? Our answer might come in the next three weeks when the Bucs face a tough stretch on their schedule, beginning with three in Atlanta against the Braves.
The series gets underway Monday with a matchup of tough-luck righthanders, Pittsburgh sending out AJ Burnett for his 13th start of the year while Atlanta counters with Kris Medlen who is making his 12th. MLB odds at Bet365 show the Braves to be -135 favorites along with a 7 run total that is equally priced high and low.
Normally, we might look at a clash between two clubs that are each winning at a .600+ clip as a potential playoff preview, but since one of those teams is Pittsburgh, our excitement is tempered a bit. Perhaps we'll feel differently once we get deeper into June and see how the Pirates perform during this stretch that includes the Braves, Reds and Angels on the road, along with the Dodgers and Giants at home.
All systems are go for a playoff launch in Atlanta, meanwhile. Not only have the Braves been playing good ball from the opening bell, they're also currently without a challenger in the NL East where the Nationals are struggling after being picked by many to be the class of the Senior Circuit and bring October baseball back to DC for the first time in 80 years.
Medlen After First Win Since April 9
It really isn't a surprise to see the Braves doing well, but the fact they're starting to run away from the rest of the division without much contribution from Medlen is a mild shock. Just one season after he seemingly couldn't lose, the righthander can't buy a win this year. He takes the mound tonight in search of just his second dubya of the campaign, and first since April 9.
Atlanta is 4-7 in Medlen's assignments, with one of those losses coming to these Pirates in Pittsburgh roughly six weeks ago. He didn't pitch poorly; in fact, he earned a quality start with six innings and six strikeouts in a 4-2 defeat. To be fair, he hasn't had a lot of support along the way, as his 3.48 ERA to go with that record would attest. The Braves have been blanked twice in games started by Medlen, and scored just one run on two other occasions.
A lack of offense has also plagued the Bucs recently, and Burnett has gotten used to not having a lot of runs to work with in his outings. Two of Pittsburgh's four wins over the last six games have been by 1-0 scores, and the Pirates have also been shut out twice in that span. Burnett has been backed by just 32 runs in his 12 starts combined.
Burnett missed facing the Braves when the two teams met in April, and will be after his first victory over Atlanta since June 2008 when he was in his final season with the Blue Jays.
Under Trends Aplenty For Monday's Matchup
The Pirates won three of the four played in Pittsburgh back in April, all three of the Bucs' victories also putting cash into the pockets of UNDER bettors. The last eight at Turner Field have been equally divided four wins apiece after the Braves won 35 of the first 51 played in this series on the Atlanta diamond. Three of the four played on this field a year ago stayed below the total.
The UNDER has definitely been the way to go with either Medlen or Burnett on the bump. Seven of Medlen's 11 assignments and nine of Burnett's 12 never reached the total.
There is a 20% chance of rain tonight in Atlanta where temps are expected to be in the upper-70s, perhaps still in the low-80s for the start of the game. A very slight NW breeze is also in the mix (LF to RF).
I'm going to ride the UNDER in Game 1 of this match for my baseball picks.