Pirates vs. Reds Game 3
By: Willie Bee
What started with a bang on Monday ended with a whimper Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Pirates came away with an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds in the conclusion of the series opener. The Reds then came back to tie the series with a 7-5 decision in the nightcap, Mike Leake's arm and bat providing the story.
The 27 runs tallied in the first two matchups should add a little pressure on pitchers Nelson Liriano and Johnny Cueto to quell the bats in today's finale. Cueto is expected get things underway with his first offering at 12:35 PM (ET), and Cincinnati is favored in the low-to-mid 110s on the moneyline.
A quick check of SBR's live MLB odds indicates sports books are expecting Liriano and Cueto to keep the hitters at bay. Bettors will be deciding on a 7 run total that is taxed to the low side of the figure.
Bucs Hope To Head
Home Above .500
Pittsburgh returns to PNC Park after this contest for a pair of 4-game series, the first this weekend vs. the Brewers followed by a visit from the Reds to start next week's slate. The Pirates are level at 7-7 on the season, scoring 57 runs so far and allowing the same.
Liriano is still looking for his first win of 2014 after three previous starts. He blanked the Cubs for six innings in his season debut but got no offensive support while in the game. The southpaw followed that up with another pair of 6-IP efforts in which he allowed four runs to both the Cardinals and Brewers to take the loss in each game.
Four starts against the Reds a year ago led to four losses for the Pirates. Two of those assignments came in Cincinnati where Liriano worked 10.1 innings and allowed seven runs, including three homers.
Continues Turnaround From Slow Start
Like Liriano, Cueto is also looking for his first win of 2014, though he has three quality starts and a 2.14 ERA to show for his previous assignments. The dreadlocked Dominican made it through the seventh of all three starts, striking out 23 and receiving all of four runs of support from his lineup.
Cueto saw the Bucs twice during the 2013 regular season, the Reds splitting the decisions while their righthander posted a miniscule 0.72 ERA over the course of 12.1 frames. The Pirates then roughed him up in the NL Wild Card Game last October, scoring four times off Cueto before chasing him from the hill one out into the fourth.
The Reds have scored 26 of their 54 runs in the last three games, and Joey Votto appears to be getting into the swing of things with a 4-hit performance Tuesday night following home runs in three of his previous four contests. Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier are also delivering in the lower half of the batting order.
I'm expecting the bats to give Cueto enough support today to finally notch a victory. Cincinnati is my free MLB pick for game 3.
My Pick: Reds -115Season: 13-12 (+0.35)
Pirates vs. Reds Game 2
By: Willie Bee
It all started so innocently, Andrew McCutchen's RBI single giving the Pittsburgh Pirates a 1-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the top of the first. But then came a deluge of home runs, along with a deluge of rain that forced Monday's series opener to be suspended after six innings with the score tied 7-7.
The Reds and Pirates pick things up from there around 5:30 PM (ET) this afternoon before getting to their scheduled tilt. Gerrit Cole will start for Pittsburgh in the nightcap opposite Mike Leake of Cincinnati, and the Pirates are slight favorites while SBR's live MLB odds is showing 7.5 for the scoreboard tally.
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati combined to club 10 homers before rain halted Monday's match. Seven of the blasts were solo shots, including all six the Pirates hit.
'Over' Has Prevailed
In Both Of Cole's 2014 Starts
Cole has won each of his first two assignments of 2014, both victories coming against NL Central foes, and he has now strung together six consecutive regular season starts with a win dating to last September.
He was outstanding in his season debut at home against the Cardinals, tossing seven frames and allowing two runs with plenty of offense behind him in a 12-2 decision. Cole followed that up with a 6-IP, 3-ER performance in Chicago, striking out 10 Cubs in Pittsburgh's 5-4 triumph.
The former UCLA star will be facing the Reds for the first time in his brief career, and recorded a 2.38 ERA in seven assignments away from home last season.
Offense Heating Up For Reds
Leake is coming off a very solid outing last week in St. Louis, hurling eight shutout innings and only allowing four hits in a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals. That assignment trailed a 4-3 setback on the road to the Mets, a game in which Leake pitched into the seventh charged a pair of homers to Lucas Duda that accounted for all of New York's scoring.
Four starts against the Pirates last year netted both Leake and the Reds three wins. In the two assignments that came at Great American Ball Park, the former Arizona State standout surrendered four runs in 12.2 combined innings, three of those runs coming on solo shots by Starling Marte, Russell Martin and McCutchen in a July outing.
Cincinnati's bats have come alive the past two days, a 12-run outburst Sunday vs. Tampa Bay preceding Monday's seven plate crossings before suspension of play. It might be difficult to keep that up with the weather forecast calling for some bitter cold temps Tuesday when the thermometer is expected to be in the 30s at the start of the evening tilt.
Still, let's look for some offense tonight with a free MLB pick on the high side of the total.My Pick: Pirates-Reds Over 7.5 (+105)
Pirates vs. Reds Game 1
By: Willie Bee
Four of Major League Baseball's six divisions have all of the teams packed within 3.5 games of each other. Not the NL Central, however, where the Milwaukee Brewers are off to a torrid start and have already built a 3-game cushion ahead of their next-closest challenger.
That makes this week's series in Cincinnati between the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates critical if two of last year's NL playoff participants don't want to get left in Milwaukee's dust. The set is scheduled to get underway Monday night with a 7:10 PM (ET) first pitch at Great American Ball Park, though Mother Nature may have other plans. More on that later.
Our initial mound clash for Game 1 has Wandy Rodriguez going for Pittsburgh against Homer Bailey of the Reds. Cincinnati is chalked in the -115 to -120 range after opening a few pennies higher, and SBR's live baseball odds is showing a unanimous 7.5 run total that leans 'over.'
This series dates back to before the National League existed when the Red Stockings and Alleghenys played in the original American Association. Monday's tilt will be the 2,306th played between the clubs, and the Pirates have managed to amass just a 20-game edge in all those meetings. They're level the past two seasons, 34-34, and the Reds hold a slim 62-57 all-time in the games played in Porkopolis. The Bucs went 6-4 in Cincy a year ago, and four of the last five at Great American Ball Park failed to reach the total.
Broomed In Beer City,
Bucs End Road
Trip In Cincy
Pittsburgh (6-6 straight up, -0.5 unit) is ending a 9-game road trip through the division with this series, the Pirates stopping previously in Chicago and Milwaukee. They did fine against the Cubs, taking two of three in Chicago, before being broomed by the Brewers.
This will be the third start of the season for Rodriguez, each of the previous two coming against the Cubs and both ending in defeat. The husky Dominican is coming back from a flexor tendon injury in his left arm that cost him most of 2013, and Rodriguez had a decent spring with a 3.09 ERA in four exhibition outings totaling almost 12 innings.
He has seen the Reds plenty over the years with Monday's matchup his 31st career assignment. Injuries in 2013 meant Wandy only caught Cincinnati once, and he lost a tough one at home allowing just two runs in seven innings as Johnny Cueto blanked the Bucs. Pittsburgh is 1-3 in his last four starts at GABP, Rodriguez pitching to a 3.38 ERA in those outings.
Reds Avoid Rays'
Brooms To Open Homestand
Cincinnati (4-8, -4.0) has dropped each if its four series to date, the most positive aspect of the Reds' early season being they haven't been swept yet. They were frustrated by Tampa Bay pitchers David Price and Alex Cobb to begin this past weekend's series, but the bats broke out in Sunday's finale for a 12-4 win over the Rays.
Like the Pirates with Rodriguez, the Reds have dropped both of Bailey's starts this campaign, each time to the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds plated four against Bailey in both outings, a span of 9.1 innings, and raked for 16 hits (.381 AVG) after the Texas native breezed through spring training limiting batters to a .133 average.
Bailey had no success against Pittsburgh last year, the Reds losing all four of his starts while the righthander posted a 4.30 ERA over the course of 23 frames. He no-hit the Buccos in Iron City the last time he faced them in 2012, winning three of his four assignments that season.
Assuming they do get this game in, it's not going to be a pleasant evening for anyone in the stands. The weatherman is calling for a 60% chance or rain tonight in Cincinnati, possibly turning to snow after midnight. I'm hopeful the weather holds off just enough, and will be running with home chalk for my free MLB pick.
My Pick: Reds -120
Season: 11-12 (-1.70)