Two of the starting pitchers who have among the lowest ERAs in the National League take the mound in Pittsburgh on Friday in the opener of a three-game set. The Pirates have opened as -117 favorites on MLB odds with a total of 7 that could drop.
What You Need To Know
Let's say the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw for the season. Or the Detroit Tigers lost David Price. The Mets said goodbye to Matt Harvey again. The Giants had to play the rest of the way without reigning World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. I bring this up because I don't see any of those teams winning their division or making the playoffs if their ace were lost. Yet the St. Louis Cardinals keep chugging along despite having lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season late last month. It hasn't seemed to bother the Cards much as they have the best record in the majors at 21-7 as well as the top run differential. The Cards already have a nice lead in the NL Central and I see no way they don't win that barring another major injury. St. Louis is a -200 favorite there but only a +600 third-favorite on the MLB odds behind the Dodgers (+275) and Nationals (+350) to win the pennant.
This is the second series of the season between the Cardinals and Pirates. They won't play again until a four-game set in Pittsburgh to close the first half of the season. St. Louis swept three games at home last weekend all by hockey scores in extra innings: 2-1 in 10 innings, 2-1 in 11 and then 3-2 in 14 in the finale. The Cardinals have won four in a row, and 14 of their last 17 at home against Pittsburgh. Matt Carpenter, the Cards' leading hitter, batted .300 with a homer and two RBIs in that series. Matt Adams was 4-for-12 with an RBI. The Pirates hit only .235 as a team in that series. Gregor Polanco had the most success, going 5-for-14 with a double and run scored. Andrew McCutchen had just three singles in 16 at-bats. Josh Harrison, who is really struggling this season, had one hit in 16 at-bats.
The Cardinals haven't lost a series yet and have lost back-to-back games only twice. Since winning a season-high five in a row, the Pirates have lost three straight series to slip under .500.
It should be a good pitching matchup. For the Cards, it's new ace Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.93 ERA), who is still only 23. He faced Pittsburgh in his last outing and it was his best of the season, shutting out the Pirates on five hits over 6.2 innings, striking out two and walking two. Wacha has allowed more than one run in just one of five starts overall this season. The Cards have won his past seven starts overall. The "over" is 7-1 at sportsbooks in his past eight during Game 1 of a series. McCutchen is 3-for-9 with a walk career off Wacha. Pedro Alvarez is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. Neil Walker is 2-for-8 with an RBI.
If Wacha takes a lead late into the game, the Cardinals won't have one of the better set-up men in the league available. Right-hander Jordan Walden, acquired this offseason with Jason Heyward from Atlanta, is likely out until the All-Star break with a right shoulder strain that at least won't need surgery. He had a 0.87 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings (12 appearances). Seth Maness will likely get the bulk of that setup work in the eighth inning now.
Left-hander Francisco Liriano (1-1, 1.95 ERA) takes the mound for Pittsburgh. He has allowed more than one earned run twice in five starts. His last start was May 2 vs. St. Louis and he allowed one run on three hits over eight innings, striking out four and walking three. He did not allow a hit until the sixth. Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta has faced Liriano more than any other St. Louis player and has 15 hits in 46 at-bats with two homers, six RBIs, 13 strikeouts and 10 walks. Matt Adams is 4-for-10 with an RBI. Yadier Molina is 2-for-16 with an RBI. Pittsburgh is just 1-6 in Liriano's past seven at home and 0-6 in his past six vs. teams with a winning record.
MLB Free Picks: Certainly love the 'under' with my MLB picks at BetOnline. It has hit in three of Liriano's past five vs. St. Louis. The 'under' is 7-3 in the Cards' past 10 vs. a lefty. It has hit in 10 of Wacha's past 15 road starts.