Pittsburgh has taken the first two games of a series with Washington, and is favored to take Saturday's Game 3. Do we stick with the Buccos with our free MLB picks, or jump ship?
Nats-Bucs Saturday Betting Odds
In Saturday's early wagering action the best price we could find on Pittsburgh with AJ Burnett was the -139 offered at BetOnline, while Washington and Gio Gonzalez were getting +135 at WagerWeb. And every book we checked with listed a total on tonight's game of seven runs.
Pittsburgh has taken the first two games of this series, including a 7-5 decision Friday night. So both teams are now 3-5 since the All-Star break.
At 56-40 Pittsburgh trails division-leading St. Louis by six games in the NL Central, but leads the NL wild-card race by four games over second-place San Francisco.
Washington, meanwhile, at 51-44 leads the NL East by three games over the second-place Mets.
The Nats lead this season series three games to two, with the totals going 3-2.
Burnett (8-3, 2.44) is 13-for-19 on quality starts this season, but is coming off his worst outing so far, after giving up six runs and 11 hits in six innings against Kansas City Monday. But over his previous four starts he allowed just seven earned runs through 27 innings. On the season Burnett has given up 124 hits through 125 innings, walked 34 and struck out 102.
Pittsburgh is 12-7 in Burnett's starts, with the totals splitting 9-9.
Since the beginning of last season, when he was with Philadelphia, Burnett is four-for-seven on quality outings against Washington. But the Nats rapped him around for four runs and 14 hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 4-1 Pirates defeat five weeks ago.
Gonzalez (7-4, 3.93) is 10-for-17 on quality starts, working on a string of four in a row. Monday he held the Mets to two runs through six innings, and over his last four starts he's allowed just four runs through 26 innings. On the season Gonzalez has allowed 106 hits through 101 innings, walked 39 and struck out 87.
The Nats are 11-6 in games Gonzalez has started, with the totals leaning OVER by a 9-7 margin.
Gonzalez has faced Pittsburgh twice in the last season-plus, including a very nice effort a month ago, allowing a total of three runs through 12 innings. The Nats won both those games.
Saturday's Batting Splits
Washington ranks 18th in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .253 team batting average, and 13th with a .318 team on-base percentage.
Pittsburgh ranks 13th against left-handed pitching with a .253 average and 15th with a .315 team OBP.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at PNC Park this season are 24-23 on the UNDERS, averaging 7.2 runs per.
We've pointed it out before, but it must be pointed out every time we handicap a Washington game; the Nats are playing without Denard Span, whom we consider the real spark-plug of the team, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon. That's almost half of what should be their starting batting order.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is playing without a couple of regulars, with infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer on the DL, but there's a chance the recently re-acquired Aramis Ramirez will play tonight.
Nats-Pirates Saturday Free Picks
Most things being equal in this match-up, we can't help but believe those injuries will eventually take a toll on Washington. Also, we give Pittsburgh an edge in the bullpen. So we'll go with the Pirates on the side. Also, the first two games in this series played OVER, so perhaps it's time for a 3-2 affair.