MLB Picks: Series Coverage for Pirates vs. Yankees

Willie Bee

Friday, May 16, 2014 12:10 PM UTC

Friday, May. 16, 2014 12:10 PM UTC

The New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates wrap up their series with a doubleheader on Sunday, and we've got analysis plus free MLB picks for both matchups.


18th May
Pirates vs. Yankees Game 3

By: Willie Bee


It was vintage New York Yankees on Saturday as they slugged five home runs and got solid pitching to skate past the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-1.  The victory helped the Yanks into a 1st-place tie in the AL East with Baltimore, and they'll try to assume occupancy of the division's penthouse all by themselves with a doubleheader sweep Sunday.

The rain-interrupted interleague set draws to a close with a pair of tilts, the first one commencing at 1:05 PM (ET) with Charlie Morton pitching for the Pirates against Hiroki Kuroda.  New York is priced around -140 on the MLB odds with an 8.5 run total.

Game 2 is tentatively set for a 4:30 first pitch and features Gerrit Cole on the mound against New York's Vidal Nuno.  Cole and the Bucs are small chalk with most shops listed on SBR's live baseball odds running with a 9 run total.

Compare the top MLB World Series Betting Lines

Game 1 - Morton Still In Search Of First Dubya
If anyone ever needed a good example of why wins are often no indication of how a pitcher is performing, Morton would fill that bill.  The Jersey native has a very respectable 3.22 ERA -- almost a run-&-a-half lower than his career mark -- with only three homers surrendered in his first 50+ innings, yet sits 0-5 on the campaign.  The only good news is the Bucs have won all three of his no-decisions. 

Morton's homerless streak is at 27.1 IP as he prepares to face the Yankees for the first time in his career.  Pittsburgh is 1-3 the previous four interleague starts with Morton sporting a fat 7.00 ERA.

Kuroda was on the mound this past Monday when the Yanks and Mets opened their series in the Bronx, picking up a no-decision with six innings and four runs allowed of an eventual 9-7 win for the visitors.  His 4.62 ERA on the season is more than a run higher than his career mark, and New York is 3-5 in his eight assignments.  He hasn't faced the Pirates since 2011, his final year with the Dodgers, and LA was 5-2 in his seven starts against them while Kuroda pitched to a sterling 1.84 ERA.


Game 2 - Nuno Needs Good Effort In Front of Home Fans
Cole has had a rather ho-hum season to date, at least by expectations, with the Bucs 4-4 in his eight trips to the bump following a 5-2 loss in Milwaukee last Tuesday.  Cole failed to get through the sixth for the second time in three starts, surrendering the first three Brewers runs.  This is his first look at the Yankees, Pittsburgh winning two of his three career assignments vs. AL squads.

Nuno's days in the New York rotation could be numbered if he fails to turn in a strong effort on Sunday.  The lefty will definitely hear boo birds if he has another rough outing in front of Yankee fans since he has produced nothing but ugly results in the Bronx; Nuno owns a 10.91 ERA in 15.2 IP at home, 0.73 in 12.1 IP on road.  This will be his first crack at the Pirates, and only the second NL club he has faced in his career.

I'm going to run with New York with free MLB picks in both games.

My picks: Yankees -140; Yankees +105

Season: 41-39 (+0.7)



17th May
Pirates vs. Yankees Game 2

By: Willie Bee


The New York Yankees are having more than their fair share of bad luck on the injury front this season. They also seem to be on Mother Nature's bad side after suffering a third rainout of the season on Friday with the Pittsburgh Pirates in town for the first of a 3-game interleague set.

Instead of a Friday night series opener, the clubs will play the first game Saturday afternoon with a national broadcast provided by FOX Sports 1 beginning at 4 PM (ET). Pittsburgh and New York are slated to make up Friday's postponement with a doubleheader on Sunday.

The decision to cancel Game 1 was made early Friday afternoon when it was obvious a steady rain in the NYC area was not going to let up. That allows for both teams to stick with their original game plans as far as the rotations go for the weekend, meaning we'll see Edinson Volquez on the hill for the Pirates and David Phelps hurling for the Yankees.

Baseball bettors are looking at very similar numbers posted 24 hours earlier thanks to no change in the mound duel. New York is priced a tad higher than on Friday, Bronx backers needing to pony up -135 on the moneyline. The total also skipped up a half-run to 9 on SBR's live baseball odds.

Will Rainout Help Break Bucs' Bad Spell?
Pittsburgh's poor start to the 2014 season looked to be turning around last week with a 4-game win streak against a pair of contending clubs, San Francisco and St. Louis. The good vibes didn't last long, however, as the Pirates dropped three of the next four before arriving in New York.

Manager Clint Hurdle and his crew can only hope that Friday's washout turns out to be the break they were looking for after struggling through the first 6+ weeks of the schedule. A year ago, the Bucs were 23-17 through 40 games, and that record is reversed presently at 17-23.

It's a bit tricky to find the source of the problem. Scoring is up for the offense, though ever so slightly with the Pirates plating 3.95 runs per game compared to 3.91 in 2013. The pitching staff has seen its ERA balloon from 3.26 a year ago, third-lowest in the NL, to 3.84 which ranks 11th presently. The rotation is responsible for that increase, 14th in the Senior Circuit with a 4.39 mark. But while the bullpen's ERA is fairly level, relievers have blown 10 of 19 save chances after leading the NL with 55 saves in 2013.


Beleaguered Yanks Rotation Gets Extra Day Of Rest
The cancellation of Game 1, coupled with Monday's day off, should help New York manager Joe Girardi afford some of his starting pitchers some extra rest. Only Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda are left from Girardi's rotation to begin the season thanks to injuries, and Girardi has been forced to turn to the likes of today's hurler Phelps along with Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley to fill in for CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.

The weatherman is calling for a nice afternoon Saturday with plenty of sunshine and temps climbing to about 70º. Sunday looks about the same so the rest of this series shouldn't be bothered by Mother Nature.

There will still be a nice westerly breeze today, around 10 mph and potentially giving the ball a little extra carry. I'm sticking with my original Friday free pick, however, and making a play on the 'under.'

My pick: Pirates-Yankees Under 9

Season: 40-39 (+0.75)


16th May
Pirates vs. Yankees Game 1

By: Willie Bee


It's the only interleague series on the MLB docket for the next three days, and one we have only seen three times previously as the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates head to New York to take on the Yankees.

Friday's opener is set for a 7:05 PM (ET) first pitch, that offering to be delivered by New York's David Phelps.  Edinson Volquez gets the ball for the Pirates, and the Yankees can be found from the upper -120s to upper -130s on SBR's live baseball odds.  The battle also features an 8.5 run total that favors the 'over.'

With interleague play now firmly entrenched in its 18th season, one thing that is becoming less common is AL-NL teams playing each other more in the World Series than regular season.  That's still the case with the Bucs and Yanks, however, who have 11 World Series games under their belts compared to just nine regular season meetings entering this series.

The clubs have produced two memorable Fall Classics, a New York sweep in 1927 and Pittsburgh's dramatic 7-game victory in 1960, the Pirates walking off on Bill Mazeroski's home run.  The Yankees have owned the regular season matchups, winning nine of seven and sweeping both sets in New York (2005, 2007) where five of the six games went past the total.


Bucs Reach Gotham Off Disappointing Loss In Milwaukee
The road trip didn't start well for Pittsburgh (17-23, -7.3 units, 17-19-4) after dropping two of three to the NL Central-leading Brewers.  Milwaukee rallied in the ninth to take that series finale on Thursday, 4-3, handing the Bucs their third setback in four games. 

Volquez came strong out of the chute with nice efforts in each of his first four starts for the Pirates, but has since gone south in three subsequent appearances.  The Cardinals and Blue Jays pounded him hard to end April and begin May, plating six runs vs. Volquez in each of those outings.  He cruised through four frames last Saturday at home in his third start of the season against St. Louis, but then the wheels came off and he failed to get through the fifth.

The Dominican has faced the Yankees just once before, that appearance coming at old Yankee Stadium in a 2008 interleague start for the Reds.  Volquez was up to the task then with seven innings, five strikeouts and only two runs allowed to get the win.

Yanks Blank Mets Twice To End Subway Series
New York (21-19, -0.9 units, 20-20 O/U) is playing its second straight interleague series after finishing up with the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday.  The Yankees lost the first two games of that set at home before shutting out their crosstown rivals to split the four games.

With New York's rotation ravaged by injuries, it would appear Phelps will remain part of the starting staff for the foreseeable future.  The Yankees have dropped each of his two assignments so far, though the former Notre Dame standout pitched well enough to win the opener of the series with the Angels on April 5, only to get no help from his lineup or his bullpen.

Friday will be the first time Phelps faces the Pirates, and only his third start against an NL club.  The righthander was solid in an assignment at Coors Field a little more than a year go (6 IP, 2 ER, 3 H), before getting bounced off the mound in the top of the first at home by the Mets a few weeks later.

A steady rain is in the forecast for New York City on Friday, with an 80%-100% chance of precipitation being projected.  There's also some strong winds in the mix (SE 20-25 mph, in from right).  The next two days look fine, so while nobody wants a rainout followed by a doubleheader, it's a very real possibility.

I hate the weather forecast for this one and have serious doubts it will be played all the way through.  I also have serious concerns for the pitchers, but will give the forecast a stronger consideration with a free MLB pick on the low side of the total.

My pick: Pirates-Yankees Under 8.5 (+105)

Season: 40-39 (+0.75)

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