In a possible World Series preview the Royals and Pirates open a three-game series at beautiful Kauffman Stadium Monday night. Pittsburgh just got swept in Milwaukee, but this handicapper is hoping AJ Burnett helps get the Pirates off to a good start to this week.
Pirates-Royals Monday Betting Odds
As of early Monday morning the best price we could find on Kansas City and Yordano Ventura was the -124 offered at BetOnline, while Pittsburgh and AJ Burnett were getting +123 at 5Dimes. And every book on our MLB odds board was listing a total on tonight's game of 7.5 runs.
Kansas City just took three of four games from the White Sox in Chicago over the weekend, beating Chris Sale Sunday 4-1. So the Royals have won 10 of their last 12 games. At 55-35 Kansas City owns a six-game lead over second-place Minnesota in the AL Central, and a five-game lead over Anaheim in the battle for the best record in the American League.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, just got swept three games at Milwaukee over the weekend, losing Sunday 6-1. The Pirates are now just 21-22 on the road this season. At 53-38 Pittsburgh trails division-leading St. Louis by 4.5 games in the NL Central, but leads the NL wild-card race by 3.5 games over the Cubs.
These teams last met back in 2012, when the Pirates swept three games from the Royals up at PNC Park.
Monday's Pitching Match-Up
Ventura (4-6, 4.73), by our tough standards, is just four-for-13 on quality starts this season, and 0-for-one since returning from a month-long absence due to a sore elbow. Last time out, 11 days ago, he gave up three runs on four hits and three walks through five innings against Tampa. So on the season Ventura has allowed 68 hits through 72 innings, walked 24 and struck out 58.
Kansas City is 5-8 in Ventura's starts, with the totals leaning UNDER by a 7-5 margin.
This will be Ventura's first-ever start against Pittsburgh, and we tend to believe the advantage in situations like this resides with the pitcher, at least for the first couple of times through the lineup.
Ventura may again be on a short leash tonight, but at least he can turn things over to one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Burnett (7-3, 2.11) is 13-for-18 on quality starts this year, and three for his last four. Nine days ago he gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings against St. Louis (and hit a homer), and over his last four starts he's allowed eight runs through 27 innings. For the season Burnett has allowed 113 hits, just four of those homers, in 119 innings, walked 33 and whiffed 100.
The Pirates are 11-7 in Burnett's starts, with the totals leaning UNDER 9-8.
This will be Burnett's first start against KC since 2012.
Monday's Batting Splits
Kansas City ranks third in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .275 team batting average, and fifth in team on-base percentage at .325.
Pittsburgh ranks 15th against right-handers with a .254 average and 15th in OBP at .316.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Kauffman Stadium this season are 21-20 on the UNDERS, averaging 8.1 runs per.
Kansas City is playing without OF Alex Gordon, who's on the DL with a badly torn groin, while Pittsburgh will be without SS Jordy Mercer, who left Sunday's game with a leg injury. The Pirates were already playing without IF Josh Harrison, who's still recovering from surgery on his thumb.
Monday's Free Picks
Pittsburgh just got swept by Milwaukee, but Burnett might be just the guy to get the Pirates back on track. Also, these two bullpens rank among the very best in baseball, so despite our qualms about Ventura we're expecting the UNDER to cash for our MLB picks tonight.
Picks: Pittsburgh +123 at 5Dimes and UNDER 7.5 runs (-105) at Just Bet