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Marlins at Pirates – Free Pick July 21st

Miami Marlins +130 at Pittsburgh Pirates -140

Carlos Zambrano (5-7, 4.22 ERA) vs. AJ Burnett (10-3, 3.76 ERA)

It’s been a rough week in major league baseball.  Stars seem to be falling left and right with injuries (Votto, Ortiz, Bautista), and I’ve taken some rough luck right along with them.  For the second time this week my wager has fallen prey to a walk off loss, and four of my last five losses have been by a painful one run.  Such are the ebbs and flows of a long and exciting season, but tonight let’s get baclk on track and kick off a new winning streak.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the runaway winners for “easiest to root for underdog” at the midpoint of the season.  They were in first at the All Star Break (albeit by just a game) for the first time in 15 years.  They are looking like a sure-fire bet to finish above .500 for the first time in nearly two decades, and have moved back within a half-game of the Reds for first place and lead the NL Wildcard race with a little breathing room to spare.  All in all, no matter how this season finishes, it’s hard to call it a disappointing one for Pittsburgh.

If they CAN finish off this magical run and land in the postseason for the first time since Sid Bream slid safely at home to eliminate Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke (whose kid plays in the big leagues now) than it seems automatic that Andrew McCutchen will be the MVP.  Factoring in the Mets poor play (which will eliminate David Wright) and the injury that will cot Votto a month, the MVP race is McCutchen’s to lose.  He is hitting a ridiculous .372 with 22 homeruns and 65 apiece in both the run and RBI category.  This is shaping up to be one of the best statistical seasons post-steroid era.

They have a favorable matchup tonight as well.  Burnett struggled in his last outing, but has been brilliant for the majority of the season, especially at home where he is 6-0 with a 2.10 ERA.   As a team, the Pirates have won 19 of 23 at home and are a major league best 30-14 at PNC Park on the season.

If the Pirates are the most thrilling surprise team, then the Marlins are the most shockingly terrible team.  Picked by many as a favorite to win the National League, they are looking more like “sellers” at the trade deadline than even remote wildcard contenders.  The season is all but lost, and when the chips are down, I’m not sure Carlos Zambrano is who I want to turn to…

Zambrano gets the ball tonight, and even though he ended his personal four game losing streak in his last outing, I don’t see him shutting down the Pirates.  Like most of the Marlins, the name sounds familiar… and it should be something good… but it just isn’t.

Free Pick:  Pittsburgh Pirates to WIN -140