Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Rivalry Spills Over to Baseball on Thursday

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 4:39 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2018 4:39 PM UTC

Bragging rights in the state of Pennsylvania are on the line Thursday as the Pirates open a four-game weekend set at rival Philadelphia. Both teams have been pleasant surprises thus far.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia PhilliesFree MLB Pick: PiratesBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It has been quite a year or so of sports in the state of Pennsylvania. Of course, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions last June. Currently, the Penguins and bitter rival Philadelphia Flyers are playing a first-round playoff series. Game 5 in that one is Friday in Steel Town. The City of Brotherly Love, meanwhile, has won a Super Bowl (Eagles) and men’s basketball national championship (Villanova) this year.

I’m not going to sit here and say both the Phillies and Pirates are going to the MLB playoffs come October, but both are playing better than expected. Pittsburgh makes its only visit of the season to Philadelphia, with Game 1 Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Last year, the Phillies sucked at 66-96 and last in the NL East. The Pirates were a bit better, finishing 75-87 and fourth in the NL Central. Pittsburgh won the season series 5-2 and was 3-1 in Philadelphia. This decade, the Bucs lead the series 34-20 and are 16-13 in Philly.

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Probable Pitchers: Taillon vs. Arrieta

Pittsburgh traded ace Gerrit Cole this offseason to Houston for prospects, and while I don’t want to say the Bucs don’t miss Cole, young right-hander Jameson Taillon has stepped up in a major way to take over as the No. 1 guy. He’s 2-0 with an NL-leading 0.89 ERA and miniscule 0.69 WHIP (third) through three starts. Taillon, 26, threw a complete-game one-hit shutout two starts ago vs. the Reds, then blanked the Marlins in Miami on four hits over six innings last time out. So that’s 15 straight scoreless innings. He has gotten a combined 26 ground-ball outs over the past two. A whopping total of 67.6 percent of Taillon’s pitches so far this season have been fastballs

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft has made two career starts vs. the Phillies and is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 11 hits allowed over 11 innings. He has struck out 16 and walked two. A couple of Phillies have had some success off him, with Odubel Herrera going 3-for-5 with a homer and Cesar Hernandez 2-for-3 with a triple.

It’s Philly’s big offseason acquisition, former Cubs Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (1-0, 3.38) on the mound. He got a slightly delayed start to the season after signing late in camp and has made just two starts, allowing two earned in each. He was limited to 74 pitches on April 8 vs. Marlins and up to 88 last time out vs. Tampa Bay where he had just one strikeout in 6.2 innings but 19 ground-ball outs.

Arrieta has faced the Pirates a ton from his Cubs days with a career 10-6 record and 3.18 ERA in 20 starts. He has fanned 114 in 121.2 innings. Gregory Polanco is 8-for-34 off him with three homers and nine Ks. Josh Bell is 7-for-14 with two homers. One Pirate whom Arrieta won’t have to worry about is second baseman Josh Harrison. He’s going to miss six weeks with a left hand fracture. Harrison was hit by a pitch on Sunday in Miami. He was hitting .263 with a homer and five RBIs. Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez will split time at second.

  • Phillies are 3-8 in their last 11 Thursday games.
  • Pirates are 7-0 in Taillon’s last 7 starts vs. National League East.
  • Pirates are 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Philadelphia.

While Arrieta is still rounding into form, Taillon looks like an early Cy Young favorite. Back the Pirates for a Thursday MLB pick.

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