MLB Picks: Pirates vs. Rangers Series Report

Willie Bee

Monday, September 9, 2013 1:29 PM UTC

Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 1:29 PM UTC

Let's view game 3 of a potential World Series preview. SBR has free baseball picks and game analysis for all three contests in Texas.


11th SEPT
Wednesday's Game Two

By: Willie Bee


The Texas Rangers finally showed a little life on offense Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it came too late and fell short of what they needed in a second straight setback to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

A matinee is in store for the Wednesday's series finale when AJ Burnett takes the mound for Pittsburgh opposite Texas' Matt Garza. MLB odds started the Rangers around -140 before that moneyline was driven up as high as -150 at some baseball betting outlets. An 8.5 run total is priced a little more to the UNDER.

Andrew McCutchen's 3 RBI and Francisco Liriano's six innings were the main ingredients in the Pirates 5-4 victory Tuesday. Texas tried to rally with three late runs off the Pittsburgh bullpen, but it wasn't enough to avoid their seventh defeat in nine games so far this month. 

Burnett, Garza Meet For 3rd Time, First In Present Uniforms 

We had Burnett on our preview & pick sheet last Friday in St. Louis where he was popped pretty good by the Cardinals (3 IP, 5 ER). It was the fourth time in his last six starts that Burnett has surrendered at least four runs, and it's no surprise the Bucs lost all four of the games.

Garza has seen the Pirates four times in recent years while wearing a Cubs jersey, including his 2013 season debut on May 21 in Pittsburgh. The Fresno State alum tossed five scoreless, 1-hit innings and left with a 3-0 lead before the Chicago bullpen coughed it up. Garza enjoyed a 3.37 ERA in the outings with 30 K's in 24 frames, but the Cubs still managed to lose three of the games. The Rangers are 6-3 since he joined up via trade from the Windy City's North Side in July, including 5-0 at home where he owns a 3.48 ERA in almost 34 innings.

This is the third time Burnett and Garza have met, and each will be in a their third different uniform for the confrontation. Garza's MLB debut for the Twins came against Burnett and the Blue Jays (Aug. 11, 2006), a game Garza would like to forget while AJ earned the win for Toronto. Burnett also got the dubya with the Yankees in April 2009, Garza pitching well in a no-decision for the Rays.


Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick

Plate duty for the series finale falls to Chad Fairchild. About to wrap up his seventh full season as an MLB umpire, Fairchild is dead-even this year with a 14-14 O/U record, but with three UNDERS in four games that involved the Pirates and Rangers. One of those was a start by AJ Burnett in Milwaukee on May 24 which failed to reach a 7.5 run total.

The weatherman is calling for a few clouds this afternoon, but they aren't expected to bring any rain and will help hold the temperature down around 90 much of the game. 

Like the Rangers, my picks have also been on a downward slide in September, so proceed at your own risk. I like Garza's record at Rangers Ballpark and will take a chance with Texas on the run line for my free play. 

My pick: Rangers -1.5 (+145)at Bet365


10th SEPT
Tuesday's Game Two

By: Willie Bee


Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate with a cold n' crispy cocktail if you thought back in March there would be a crucial September pitching matchup between Francisco Liriano and Martín Perez. I know it was off my radar, but Liriano and Perez will indeed hook up in a meaningful duel Tuesday in Texas where the Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates continue their 3-game interleague set.

Check out Tuesday's Daily Baseball Odds & Betting Lines Report for a breakdown of today's games!

Texas is priced around -130, and SBR's live MLB odds lists both 8 and 8.5 run totals available.

Pittsburgh guaranteed its first winning season since 1992 with a 1-0 decision in Monday's opener. Rookie Gerrit Cole and a couple of relievers limited the Rangers to four hits to help the Bucs move back to within a game of the NL Central lead. It was the third time Texas lost a 1-0 game in 2013, all three of those setbacks with Yu Darvish on the mound.


Liriano After 24th-Straight Decision; Perez Seeks 10th Victory

Win-loss records can be so deceiving; the two best examples I can think of are Nolan Ryan and Kevin Tapani. Ryan won the NL ERA title in 1987, but was 8-16 hurling for the Astros, while Tapani went 19-9 for the '98 Cubs with a 4.85 ERA. In the case of Liriano this year, however, his 15-7 record (+7.1 units) and 2.98 ERA come with the distinction of earning a decision in every 2013 start, something difficult to do in this day and age. 

He's had some clunkers along the way, like last Wednesday at Milwaukee where he was charged with seven runs in just three full innings of work. Liriano also had an ugly outing in Colorado just over a month ago (2.1 IP, 10 ER), but it was at hitter-friendly Coors Field just six days after many Rockies were getting their first look at the Dominican in pitcher-friendly PNC Park. He owns a pretty good track record against the Rangers and at their hitter-friendly grounds in Texas, beating them on this field last July while part of the Twins rotation. 

Perez has been nothing short of outstanding since being called up for good in June, the Rangers winning 11 of his 14 starts in that span and anyone backing him up nearly $8.00 on the season. The little Venezuelan earned the dubya in his last six starts, five of them on the road, and Texas has cashed his last seven. He faced NL squads in his first three 2013 appearances, beating Cincinnati with 6.2 scoreless frames in the only one at home, and sports a solid 2.20 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in five starts (32.2 IP). 

Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick

Jeff Kellogg is expected to work the dish for Game 2. Four of his last five plate assignments have gone OVER, leaving Kellogg 18-11-1 O/U/P for the entire campaign. He also worked Liriano's July 29 start vs. the Cards which finished above the scoreboard hurdle. 

The weatherman is calling for a 0% chance of rain and less humidity in the D-FW area today. It's still going to be warm, though, with a game-time temp in the low-90s, along with a SE wind in the 8-12 mph range. 

Both squads have done pretty well against southpaws in 2013, Pittsburgh winning 14 of 26 while Texas is 28-16 vs. port-side slingers. I'm leaning to the Pirates, but like the UNDER more for my sports pick on Tuesday. 

My pick: Pirates-Rangers Under 8.5 (-120) at Bet365


9th SEPT
Monday's Series Opener

By: Willie Bee


A possible World Series preview in September? That is indeed the case the next three days in Texas where the Rangers entertain the Pittsburgh Pirates in one of the final six interleague series remaining on the 2013 MLB betting slate.

It all gets underway Monday night with a mound duel between a couple of young righthanders expected to serve as staff aces for several years to come. Pittsburgh sends 23-year-old rookie Gerrit Cole to the bump at Rangers Ballpark, aka The House That Dubya Built, against 27-year-old sophomore Yu Darvish of Texas. The Rangers opened -170 before overnight action boosted the MLB odds to around -180. An 8 run total is generally taxed a little more to the ‘Under’.

Just the fifth regular season meeting between the two franchises, each club begins the set leading their respective league's wild card standings. Texas is 3-games up on the Tampa Bay Rays for the top AL runner-up spot while Pittsburgh is just percentage points ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL race.

The series has been one-sided in favor of the Rangers who have won 10 of the previous 12 get-togethers. That includes a perfect 6-0 in the Lone Star State, the ‘Over’ cashing five of the collisions at Rangers Ballpark. For real history buffs, Kenny Rogers and Frank Francisco each own two wins for the Rangers along the way. The most recent meeting was 2010 in Texas, a sweep for the Rangers (2-1 O/U).

Texas Looks For First Win Behind Darvish in a Month

I mention that 2010 meeting as a lead-in to the fact it came before either Cole or Darvish wore a major league uniform. Cole was in fact still a year away from being chosen No. 1 overall out of UCLA in the 2011 draft by Pittsburgh while Darvish was still pretty much an unknown to 99% of MLB fans and gamblers.

A solid career for the Bruins after spurning the New York Yankees as the No. 28 pick in 2008, Cole has been just about as steady and consistent as you could ask a rookie hurler thrown into a pennant race to be. After winning his first four starts in June, the Pirates have dropped seven of his 11 starts the past couple of months while the big righty pitched to a 3.76 ERA in that span, just slightly above the 3.70 mark he recorded in those initial four victories.

Cole has split his two interleague starts, beating the Angels in Anaheim and dropping a close 2-1 decision to the A's at home, and is coming off consecutive outings vs. the Brewers with the Bucs halving those two.

Darvish is coming off statistically his worst assignment of 2013, though I would argue a loss to the Houston Astros on July 6 was actually the worst start of 2013. Control was an issue five days ago in Oakland where the A's hung a 5-spot on him in five frames, a pair of 2-run homers doing Darvish in. Walks have been a problem, illustrated by his 3.64 K/BB ratio despite running away with the MLB lead in strikeouts (240). Darvish also ranks second in batting average, ninth in ERA and 11th in WHIP.

Teams Injury Free & Beefed-Up Rosters

Other than Pittsburgh's bruised pride after being swept in St. Louis, both teams enter the week free of any recent injuries along with sporting full dugouts and bullpens thanks to September's expanded rosters. The Rangers recently got DH Lance Berkman and reliever Neftali Feliz back from the DL; the Pirates could see southpaw starter Wandy Rodriguez return in another week or so.

It's still warm down here in Texas where the weatherman is calling for the thermometer to be in the low-90s for the first pitch. There isn't any rain in the current forecast for this series, and all three days are expected to feature S-SSE winds (in from center/right) which will create a bit of a swirling effect to favor the hitters some.

Considering the recent run the Rangers have been on when Darvish is up in the rotation, any wager on Texas is a bit shaky. However, the Pirates reach the Lone Star State reeling from a broom job by the Cardinals, so I'm going to take a chance with a run line play on the Rangers for my free sports pick on Monday.


MLB pick: Take the Texas Rangers on the run line -1.5 (+120) at Bet365

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