Pirates & Twins played a crazy game last night, Pittsburgh winning on a ninth-inning homer. This handicapper is thinking momentum might play a factor in this afternoon's meeting.
Pirates-Twins Wednesday Odds
In the early betting the best price we could find on Pittsburgh with Francisco Liriano was the -119 offered at 5Dimes, while Pinnacle was giving Minnesota and Ervin Santana +114. And most books on our MLB odds board listed a total on Wednesday's game of 7.5, although there were a few eights out there.
Pittsburgh took the opener of this series Tuesday night, a crazy game, 8-7. Minnesota led 2-0 through four innings; the Pirates grabbed a 3-2 lead; the Twins tied it at 3-3; Pittsburgh then scored four runs in the top of the eighth to take a 7-3 lead, but Minnesota came right back with four in the bottom of the eight to re-tie it at 7-7. The Pirates' Jung Ho Kang then popped a solo homer in the top of the ninth – the only homer of the game - and Pittsburgh hung on for the victory.
Earlier this week the Pirates took three of four games from Washington. So at 58-41 Pittsburgh still trails first-place St. Louis by 5.5 games in the NL Central, but still leads the NL wild-card race by 3.5 games over second-place San Francisco.
Minnesota, meanwhile, dropped two of three games at home to the Yankees earlier this week. So at 52-47 the Twins trail first-place Kansas City by nine games in the AL Central, but they also own the second American League wild-card spot at the moment, two games ahead of Baltimore.
This is the second meeting between these teams this season; back in May the Twins took two games from the Pirates at PNC, by scores of 8-5 and 4-3.
Santana (2-0, 2.60) is three-for-four on quality starts since joining the Minnesota rotation, after sitting out that suspension. Last Thursday he tossed eight innings of four-hit, shutout ball against the Angels, and just before that he tossed 7 2/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball against Oakland. Through four starts Santana has allowed eight runs and 20 hits through 27 2/3 innings, with seven walks and 21 strikeouts.
Minnesota is 3-1 in Santana's starts, with the UNDERS going 3-1.
Santana has been in the Bigs for 10 years, but has faced Pittsburgh just once, last August, when as a Brave he allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-3 Atlanta victory.
Liriano (6-6, 2.91) is 15-for-19 on quality starts so far, and working on a string of five in a row. Last Thursday he held Washington to one run through six innings, whiffing 11, and over his last five starts he's allowed just seven runs through 32 1/3 innings. On the season Liriano has allowed just 82 hits through 121 innings, walked 42 and struck out 136.
The Pirates are 9-10 in Liriano's starts overall, but have won his last five in a row. Also, the OVERS are 9-7 with Liriano, in part because his starts – and Pittsburgh games in general - are regularly pegged with such low totals.
Liriano has started three times against his former team, and while the first two times worked out well, when he was with the White Sox back in 2012, the most recent one, back in May of this season, didn't, as he got clipped for seven runs in two innings of an 8-5 Pirates defeat.
Wednesday's Batting Splits
Pittsburgh ranks 13th in the MLB against right-handed pitching with a .257 team batting average, and 15th with a .317 team on-base percentage.
Minnesota, meanwhile, ranks 13th against left-handed pitching with a .252 average and 20th with a .310 team OBP.
Ballpark Totals Factor
The OVERS are 27-20 at Target Field this season, as Twins home games have averaged 8.9 runs per.
Pittsburgh is playing without IFs Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, and while it brought in 3B Aramis Ramirez in a trade last week, he hasn't done anything yet.
Pirates-Twins Wednesday Free Picks
We'll call the comparison of the sticks a wash, and there's no edge to be found in the pitching match-up. Our play on the side for this game is based on our belief Minnesota has played above its head for much of this season, and might be a good fade from here on out. That line of thought worked for a win Sunday, when the Twins lost to the Yankees, and we'll go with it today. Also, this game looks like a 3-2 or 4-3 affair in the making, so we'll go UNDER.