I would be lying to you if I said that the NL Central showdown between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, which begins Friday night, was the best series in Major League Baseball this weekend. No, if I had my choice I would have gone with either White Sox-Yankees or Reds-Giants. Both of those are potential playoff previews involving division leaders. But I’ve already done a handful of Yankees series this season and, thus, want to steer clear of them for a while just to spread the wealth around. As for the surging Giants, I expect to preview their series starting next Tuesday against the Washington Nationals. And if not that one, it will be Rangers-White Sox.
But, really, I didn’t do either of those series because they both started Thursday night and some books don’t offer odds on four-game series (or just the first three games). Plus, it has been about two decades since a Pirates series actually was somewhat important entering July (they were relevant for a while last year before a late fade). Pittsburgh and St. Louis both trail Cincinnati in the NL Central by two games entering Thursday’s action and they are both three games out of the top two wild-card spots. The Pirates are looking for the first winning season since their last playoff berth in 1992, while the Cardinals are trying to prove there is life after Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa and get a chance to defend their World Series title.
I hate to see June end as I have hit on all of my weekend series predictions this month. Let’s make it 5-for-5.
Pirates at Cardinals Betting Story Lines
You couldn’t find two much more different offensive clubs. St. Louis leads the National League in runs, hits, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS. Thanks to that offense, St. Louis leads the majors with a plus-69 run differential.
The Pirates are second-to-last in the Senior Circuit in runs, total bases, batting average, slugging and OPS, and last in hits and on-base percentage. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is having another all-star season, hitting .342 with 14 homers, 48 RBI and 14 steals – he might be the most indispensible hitter in baseball right now and leads Pittsburgh in literally every major offensive category. No other regular is hitting better than .263. The offense has been better this month, however. The Pirates scored 11 runs Wednesday in a win over the Phillies. It was their most runs in a game this season and it marked the eighth time in 2012 that they scored eight runs or more. Six of those games have come in June.
This is the third series of the season between these two. Back on April 20-22, the Cardinals won two of three in Pittsburgh, holding the Pirates to four total runs. At that point, the Pirates had not scored more than five runs or allowed more than five in each of their first 15 games this season. That was the third-longest such streak to start a season in MLB history. Only the 1965 Pirates (16) and 1943 Tigers (17) had longer streaks. That record would be broken four games later on April 27 at Atlanta when the Pirates lost, 6-1. The Pirates then visited St. Louis May 1-3 and the Cards’ offense went off in totaling 25 runs in winning two of three. The Cardinals outscored the Pirates 7-0 in the first inning in the series.
Pirates at Cardinals Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Pirates RHP Kevin Correia (3-6, 4.03) vs. Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (6-7, 3.42) – Correia has missed the Cards so far this year. He has been good in his past two starts, allowing only two total runs on 10 hits in 11.1 innings. Those were both at home, however, and Correia has a 4.64 ERA on the road this season. He is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA in his career vs. St. Louis. Wainwright is starting to resemble the pitcher he was before Tommy John Surgery forced him to miss last season. He has gone seven innings the last three times out and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of them. He got his first win of the season May 1 vs. Pittsburgh, allowing four runs in seven innings. McCutchen is hitting .400 off Wainwright in his career.
Saturday: Pirates RHP Jeff Karstens (0-2, 6.35) vs. Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (10-3, 3.23) – Karstens returned from a two-month stay on the DL and was bombed last time out by the Phillies, allowing seven runs and 11 hits on Monday. He is 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA in his career vs. St. Louis. Lynn has come back to earth after a phenomenal start in his first year in the rotation. He has allowed 11 runs on 18 hits in his past two starts to see his ERA climb by almost eight-tenths of a run. Lynn had allowed only four homers all season until his last start when the Royals went deep three times. Lynn is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts vs. the Pirates this year, but he’s not that guy any longer.
Sunday: Pirates LHP Erik Bedard (4-8, 4.27) vs. Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook (6-6, 3.77) – Bedard is also coming back to reality. He had a 3.12 ERA a month ago, but in June his ERA is 6.58 and he is 1-3. Bedard has been very good in two starts vs. the Cards, going 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. In the last one, he struck out 11 – including a team-record seven straight – in just five innings. Pittsburgh pitchers fanned a team-record 17 Cardinals overall in that May 3 win. Westbrook has allowed three runs or less in each of his past four starts and just one long ball in that stretch. He is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts vs. Pittsburgh in 2012.
Pirates at Cardinals Betting Odds and Trends
For the series, I project the Cardinals around -180 favorites. For Game 1, St. Louis is a -185 favorite at BetOnline with the total at nine. Pittsburgh is 20-7-1 on road (entering Thursday) on the over/under. Cards are 19-14 O/U at home.
Pittsburgh is 1-5 in Correia’s past six road starts vs. teams with a winning record. St. Louis is 4-1 in its past five vs. a righty starter but 2-6 in its past eight series openers overall. The Cards are 1-7 in their past eight Friday games. The “under” is 9-1-2 in Pittsburgh’s past 12 Friday games. The “over” is 10-1 in the Cards’ past 11 games vs. the NL Central. The Pirates have won just five of their past 19 games in St. Louis.
Pirates at Cardinals Betting Predictions
The Cardinals catch a huge break here in that they miss the Pirates’ two best pitchers, James McDonald and A.J. Burnett. Plus, Pittsburgh had to play Thursday in Philadelphia and then travel, while the Cardinals were off Thursday. Thus, I see absolutely no way the Pirates can win this series – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sweep. I also love St. Louis in the opener behind Wainwright along with the under because he may blank the Bucs.
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