The Pittsburgh Pirates are small favorites on the MLB odds to even their series today in Cincinnati against NL Central rivals Joey Votto and the Reds.
Are the Pittsburgh Pirates in danger of losing their hold on the top National League Wild Card spot? The first week of September has seen the Pirates struggling on the road where they opened a series against the Cincinnati Reds with another loss on Monday, and their lead over the Chicago Cubs for home-field advantage in the do-or-die NL Wild Card contest has now shrunk to just two games.
Pittsburgh will try and get back into the win column Tuesday in a 7:10 PM (ET) first pitch in Cincinnati, Francisco Liriano on the hill for the visitors while Raisel Iglesias takes the ball for the Reds. Pinnacle originally sent the Pirates out at -125, that moneyline tightening closer to -110 overnight. Their total inched up from 7 to 7½, and both of those numbers are still available at various locales listed on SBR's live baseball odds.
The old rivals are meeting for the 2,339th time in the regular season, and it has been a very even series dating all the way back to 1882 with Pittsburgh up 1,164-1,155, 19 games suspended as ties. The Reds have tightened that up the past dozen years or so, and stand 10-4 against the Bucs following Monday's victory.
The clubs are meeting at Great American Ball Park for the 112th time, Pittsburgh the first team to play here when the stadium opened in 2003. The Reds are 6-2 at home vs. the Iron City Nine this year, MLB odds running 2-4-2 O/U/P on the totals in Cincinnati.
Liriano Winless As Pirate Vs. Reds
Pittsburgh (81-55, +15.2 units) was a season-best 30 games above .500 on August 29 before dropping the finale of a homestand to the Rockies and losing five of seven so far on this 9-game road trip. The Pirates seemed to find their mojo over the weekend in St. Louis where they took two of three from the Cardinals, and maybe the quick turnaround to Monday's matinee was behind the loss which came as a slight road 'dog on the Labor Day baseball betting card.
Liriano is coming off his first loss since June 20, the Pirates winning 11 straight starts by the lefty before control issues caught up with him in a 5-3 defeat in Milwaukee last Thursday. Tuesday will be just the second time Liriano has seen the Reds this year, the other coming Opening Day when he earned a no-decision with seven strong innings of a Pittsburgh loss in Cincinnati. The Pirates are an imperfect 0-6 when Liriano pitches on this mound, the Dominican owning a 4.86 ERA in those assignments.
Cincinnati (57-79, -20.5 units) opened the season by sweeping the Pirates, but hasn't really been in the playoff hunt since then. Even with a Herculean second-half effort by Joey Votto, the offense ranks among the worst in the NL, and the bullpen has been one of the worst groups at converting saves.
The wins aren't showing up, but Iglesias has been as solid a starter as Bryan Price has had recently. Each of the Cuban's last seven starts have gone in the QS column, and he has gone at least seven frames the last four times out with 3-straight games of 10+ strikeouts. Iglesias beat the Pirates in early-August, his only look at them so far, by pitching into the seventh and allowing just two runs.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
James Hoye sets up behind the catcher for a 23rd time this season, and brings a 9-10-3 O/U/P record into Tuesday's tilt. Five of his last nine plate assignments never made it to the MLB odds, along with three games that pushed the totals. Home teams are running 10-12 in 2015, splitting the six games they've been the underdogs.
Weather isn't going to be an issue in Cincinnati tonight when clear skies and temps in the low-to-mid 80s are in the forecast. With the Pirates in a bit of a funk right now, I'm liking Cincinnati at home with my free MLB pick.
MLB Picks: Reds +106 at Pinnacle