MLB Odds and Free Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves
by Alan Matthews - 7/28/2011
It’s almost a shame that the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates and the NL Wild-Card leading Atlanta Braves don’t play each other again, especially at the end of the season with that Wild-Card spot on the line. That’s because the first three games of this four-games set have been very entertaining, well-pitched games. Atlanta has taken two of the first three and leads the Wild-Card race by 3.5 games, with Pittsburgh 6.5 games back in that race and 1.5 behind in the NL Central.
Pirates at Braves Betting Story Lines
If you have been betting the ‘under’ in this series, you have made out like a bandit. The Pirates won the opener, 3-1, with James McDonald outdueling Tim Hudson. Then came Tuesday’s 4-3 Atlanta win in 19 innings. That game will be remembered for a long time because it featured one of the worst calls by an umpire you will ever see. By now you have seen the replay 100 times: In the bottom of the 19th with the game tied at three, Braves runner Julio Lugo took off from third on Scott Proctor's grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, whose throw to catcher Michael McKenry easily beat Lugo to the plate. McKenry pretty obviously tagged Lugo out, but umpire Jerry Meals inexplicably called Lugo safe. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle went ballistic and the Pirates formally protested the game. As usual, MLB did nothing about it other than admit Meals made the wrong call, which Meals also later admitted. Can you say instant replay!!?? Just imagine if the Pirates finish one game out of a playoff spot.
Tuesday’s result is the kind of game that can leave a hangover, and Pittsburgh managed just one run in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss. Although, to be fair, the Pirates had to deal with Braves all-star starter, Jair Jurrjens. The last time the Braves won back-to-back games at home and each game was won in extra innings was May 16-17, 2006
Atlanta had a new hero on Wednesday. All-star catcher Brian McCann was placed on the disabled list before the game. He has a strained oblique that will keep him out at least two weeks but very possibly longer. So David Ross is the team’s everyday catcher now. He knocked in both runs last night, including the game-winning hit in the 10th, and threw out two baserunners. The Braves are 17-6 with Ross starting, and the veteran is hitting .316 with four homers and 18 RBI in those starts.
Still, the team is going to miss McCann. He was hitting .306 with 18 homers and a .514 slugging percentage at the time of his injury. He batted .323 with 16 homers and a 1.023 OPS in the 53 games played dating back to May 17. Outfielder and leadoff man Jordan Schafer is also on the disabled list and third baseman Chipper Jones has a strained quad and has only been able to pinch-hit the past two games. Thus, the Braves’ offense is in dire need of some help. It was thought Atlanta was in the running for Carlos Beltran, but he was traded to the Giants on Wednesday night.
Until reinforcements arrive the Braves will need to continue to lean on second baseman Dan Uggla and rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. Uggla had three hits Wednesday and extended his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. Freeman extended his hitting streak to 11 games and has hit .322 in his past 62 games with 11 homers and a .383 on-base percentage to likely take the lead for NL Rookie of the Year.
Pirates at Braves Probable Pitchers
This looks like a huge mismatch on paper as Atlanta starts Derek Lowe (6-8, 4.49) against Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia (11-8, 4.38). Lowe is a perfect 10-0 against Pittsburgh in his career in 10 starts, with a 2.64 ERA. Last season, he went 3-0 against the Pirates with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings of work. Lowe is trying to become the first pitcher to win his first 11 starts against a team since Pedro Martinez beat Seattle in each of his first 12 from 1998-2004.
Correia, an all-star this season, is 0-2 with a 9.42 ERA over his last three starts. He was bombed last time out by St. Louis, allowing seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. But Correia is 9-2 with a 2.85 ERA on the road. He is 1-1 with a 4.56 ERA in eight games (four starts) against the Braves in his career.
Pirates at Braves MLB Odds, Trends and Free Pick
Pittsburgh is +150, according to MLB odds, with the total at 7.5. The Pirates are 9-3 in their last 12 games following a loss. The Braves are 14-3 in their past 17 at home. They are 6-1 in Lowe’s past seven at home.
With both teams no doubt rather tired after playing 29 innings the past few days, don’t be shocked if a regular or two sits out tonight – so I love the ‘under’ again because neither team is hitting much as it is. And I think Pittsburgh is the best underdog value on the board on Thursday because that Braves lineup is so depleted and because of how good Correia has been on the road. This game means a lot more to Pittsburgh than it does Atlanta. So Pirates it is.
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