Baseball Picks: Reds at Pirates Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 9/20/2013
The Washington Nationals appear to have very much motivated the Cincinnati Reds. The Nats made a bit of a push to catch Cincinnati for the NL's second wild-card spot, but now it seems a lock that Cincinnati will claim one of those two wild cards, with Pittsburgh the other. And I wouldn't want to play the Reds right now. They enter Friday's big series opener at the Pirates having won three straight and nine of 13. Cincinnati has Johnny Cueto back and has perhaps the most unique weapon on baseball in speedster Billy Hamilton.
As for the Pirates, they are scuffling. They entered Thursday's home series finale with the Padres looking to avoid a sweep. There is no excuse for losing a home series to San Diego while trying to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in more than two decades. Maybe the pressure is getting to this inexperienced bunch. Should Pittsburgh lose Thursday it would be in a deadlock with Cincinnati in the wild-card chase. The Reds would appear to have the upper hand to host that one-game playoff because after this weekend they close at home against the Mets and Pirates. Pittsburgh visits the Cubs and then the Reds. It will be very interesting to see if these two teams are tied next Sunday to see how each manager treats the game. Save your ace for the playoff game or use him to get home field in the regular-season finale? Right now if you go by normal rest, it would be Mike Leake's turn next Sunday for the Reds and Gerrit Cole's for Pittsburgh. However, both teams are off Thursday, so that could change things.
Reds at Pirates Betting Story Lines
Remember that slogan "Chicks Dig the Long Ball?" That's so late 1990s. Steals are cool now. Hamilton is perhaps the biggest game-changer in baseball -- when he gets on base. In 2012, Hamilton stole an unthinkable 155 bases in the minor leagues. This year he had 75 at Triple-A before getting a September call-up. There's no doubt Hamilton is the fastest player in baseball, and all he did in Wednesday's win over the Astros was steal four bases to become the first player in the live ball era (since 1920) to do so in his first career start. Hamilton's fourth steal came in the top of the 13th -- on a pitchout. He then scored the go-ahead run on Jay Bruce's double.
If you are wondering why he wasn't called up sooner, the Reds were pretty set in the outfield and weren't sure Hamilton could hit big-league pitching. He's 3-for-7 with six runs scored and 9-for-9 in steals thus far. Hamilton is also an excellent defensive center fielder. Even if Hamilton doesn't start a game, just think what kind of weapon he would be as a pinch-runner late in a tie game. This is why National League baseball is so much better than the AL, where you rarely see much strategy because of the DH. Unfortunately, I think everyone agrees the DH probably will be in the NL within the next 3-5 years. Why can't there also be a DR -- Designated Runner? That would bring some excitement. I'm serious. How about the DH can be replaced as a runner every time he gets on base. Would you rather see a David Ortiz on the bases or a Hamilton?
We might have the top two finishers in the NL MVP race in this series. I am pretty confident that Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen will win it. He is carrying the Pirates offensively again this year, batting .327 with 20 homers, 81 RBI and 27 steals. Not incredible numbers like Miguel Cabrera, but McCutchen will win simply because he's the heart of a winning team, much like Kirk Gibson was with mediocre numbers for the Dodgers in 1988. Cincinnati's Bruce could finish second, although Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt will be in the mix. Bruce is hitting .270 with 30 homers and 103 RBI. He has had four straight games with at least two hits and has 10 RBI in that stretch. Joey Votto (.307, 23 HR, 70 RBI) will also get MVP votes, and maybe he finishes second.
The Reds start Mat Latos (14-6, 3.14) on Friday -- he deserves some Cy Young votes. However, he was roughed up for five runs and seven hits in 6.2 innings in a loss at Milwaukee last time out. Latos is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in four starts against the Pirates this season. McCutchen is 3-for-12 with a homer off him this year. Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez also have gone yard.
Pittsburgh counters with its unlikely ace, lefty Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.92), who definitely should get Cy Young consideration. He has allowed three runs over 12 innings in his past two starts, both wins. Liriano is the first Pirates lefty to win at least 16 games in a single season since John Smiley and Zane Smith in 1991. The Reds have really figured Liriano out as he is 0-3 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts against them this year.
Reds at Pirates MLB Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, Pittsburgh opened at -121 and Cincinnati at +111 with a total of 6.5. All Pirates trends entering Thursday: The Reds are 73-73-7 “over/under” (38-37-3 on road) and 72-81 on the runline. Pittsburgh is 66-80-6 O/U (29-44-4 at home) and 85-67 on the runline.
The Reds are 5-11 in their past 16 road games against lefty starters. Cincinnati is 3-7 in its past 10 after an off day. The Reds are 4-1 in Latos' past five series openers. The Pirates are 7-3 in their past 10 series openers. They are 1-4 in their past five at home against righty starters. Pittsburgh is 7-0 in Liriano's past seven home starts. The over is 8-2 in Cincinnati's past 10 road games. The under is 5-0-1 in Latos' past six road starts. The under is 4-1-1 in Liriano's past six at home.
Baseball Picks: Reds at Pirates Betting Predictions
Liriano is a tremendous 8-1 with a 1.37 ERA at home this year, but for some reason he struggles against the Reds. Plus, he is apt to have a blow-up game -- he allowed seven earned runs in three innings three starts ago and 10 runs in 2.1 innings at Colorado on Aug. 9. The Pirates lead the season series 7-6, but I like Cincy as a dog here. Take the over.
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