Can Pittsburgh cut into the Cardinals' lead when the clubs meet Tuesday to open a 3-game series in St. Louis? Join us for analysis and free MLB picks for the entire set.
Winners of four straight and seven of their last 10, Pittsburgh begins a tough road trip with the 2nd-best record in the National League, the Pirates' first stop being St. Louis where the Cardinals own baseball's best mark and are extremely tough to beat on their home diamond.
Game 1 of the set gets underway Tuesday (8:15 PM ET) with an initial mound clash between Jeff Locke of the Pirates and St. Louis' Carlos Martinez. The morning nickel line at 5Dimes is listing -152 for the Cardinals, both 7 and 7½ run totals available on the MLB odds board.
The division foes are meeting for the first time since just before the All-Star Game, and the series has run strongly in favor of the home teams this year. The Pirates won five of the seven played in Pittsburgh during the first half of the 2015 MLB betting schedule, the Cardinals sweeping all three played in St. Louis in early-May.
The latest rendition of Busch Stadium has been tough on the Bucs since it opened in 2006, St. Louis winning 48 of the 74 played on this diamond (.648). All three games played here May 1-3 stayed 'under' the totals after scoreboard wagers ran 4-5-1 O/U/P in St. Louis a year ago.
Pirates 4-7 On Road In 2nd Half Of Season
Pittsburgh (65-44, +12.8 units) just wrapped up a 4-1 homestand that saw the opener of a series against the Chicago Cubs last week rained out. The Pirates split the remaining two contests with the Cubs before brooming the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Iron City over the weekend. Chicago shut out Pittsburgh before the Bucs got their offense going to win four straight, scoring 31 runs in the quartet of triumphs.
They now begin a very crucial road trip that will take the Pirates to New York and a weekend series with the Mets after this stop in St. Louis. Pittsburgh is level on the road this season, 26-26, but has dropped seven of 11 away from home since the all-star break, going 1-3 in that span when playing the role of the underdog on the MLB odds..
Locke's last three starting assignments ended up in the win column for St. Louis, though the lefty wasn't necessarily at his best in any of the games. The 5th-year hurler couldn't make it through the sixth inning in any of the outings, allowing a total of 11 runs in 15.2 combined innings in the clashes with the Nationals, Reds and Cubs. He is seeing the Cardinals for the second time in 2015, Pittsburgh splitting the previous two that both came at PNC Park. Tuesday is his fourth start at Busch II, Locke 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA in the previous three.
Martinez Tops All Hurlers In Winnings
While the Pirates are struggling a bit on the road, St. Louis (71-40, +23.2 units) has been money all season at home. The Cardinals lead all of baseball with 40 wins in front of the home crowd, and have posted a 9-4 mark at Busch during the second half. Tonight marks the 20th consecutive game the Redbirds have been favored at home, a June 30 matchup against Chris Sale and the White Sox the last time they closed as the underdog at Busch Stadium.
The breakout campaign for Martinez continues with the righthander ranking as the top starting pitcher on the baseball betting front. St. Louis has emerged victorious in 17 of his 20 starts, good enough for nearly 13½ units of profit with bettors cashing seven of his last eight trips to the bump. One of those three setbacks did come against the Pirates, however, a 7-5 decision in Pittsburgh on May 9 when Martinez allowed all seven runs before being relieved in the sixth. He rebounded with a winning effort at PNC two months later, pitching into the eighth and keeping the Pirates off the plate in 7.1 innings.
The weatherman is calling for 80º, clear skies and a light northerly breeze (in from left) for the start of tonight's clash. I'm liking the 'over' for my free MLB pick, with a slight lean to the underdogs as well.
MLB Pick: Pirates-Cardinals Over 7½ (+120) @ 5Dimes