We picked up what had to be the easiest win of the season for us yesterday when we backed the Oakland Athletics at home against the Los Angeles Angels. I loved how A’s starter Edwin Jackson had been pitching this season and had a feeling that Angels starter Matt Shoemaker may struggle as he had been really shaky his last two starts and the A’s had been swinging a very heavy bat in this series as they had scored seventeen runs in the first two games of this series.
And boy was I ever right! The A’s absolutely pounded the Angels in this one. It was 12-1 by the fourth inning and by the seventh inning the Angels had their catcher Francisco Arcia, on the mound throwing 43-MPH rainbows. All told, the A’s punished the Halos for twenty-one runs and absolutely embarrassed LA. With the win and Tampa Bay Rays heart-breaking loss, Oakland was able to pick up a huge game in the wild-card chase and are close to clinching the final playoff spot in the American League.
Oakland was also able to pull within a game and a half of the New York Yankees, who lost at home to the Boston Red Sox, for home-field advantage in the wild-card round. The playoff race in the AL continues to be one full of drama that very well could come down to the last day of the season. For today’s pick, I will shift gears and head over to the National League and break down the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will look to play spoiler tonight as they host the Milwaukee Brewers for game one of a three-game series. The Brewers have slipped up just a bit recently as they have lost three out of their last five games and have now fallen to two and a half games back of the Chicago Cubs for the National League Central Division title.
They are, however, in a very solid position to still make the playoffs as they occupy the first wild-card spot in the National League, with a healthy three-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates, while out of contention at this point, are steaming hot as they have won six out of their last seven and eleven out of their last fourteen games. That run includes taking two out of three in Milwaukee last week against these Brewers.
Starting tonight for the Pirates is Ivan Nova (9-9 4.07 ERA), and for the Brewers, it is Jhoulys Chacin (14-8 3.54 ERA). The Brewers are -132 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
This Pittsburgh Pirates team is a tough one to figure out this season. They played poorly for much of the first half of the season and looked to be headed for a multi-year rebuilding process. Then they caught fire right before the trade deadline that saw them win fourteen out of seventeen games. That hot streak convinced Pirates management to change course, and they turned into buyers at the deadline, making the move to pick up starter Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
But then the Pirates fell back to earth and quickly again fell out of contention. Now in September with their fate already decided, they have caught fire again. Technically they aren’t mathematically eliminated, but for all intents and purposes, they are done on the year as they are six games back of several teams in the National League wild-card race.
However, Pittsburgh seems to have embraced this role of spoiler as they have recent wins against the Cardinals and the Brewers and are playing great baseball right now. One guy that is certainly at his best right now is tonight’s starter, Ivan Nova. Nova is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in September and in his last start he dominated these Brewers in Milwaukee to the tune of six innings of one-run ball. Nova has allowed more than two runs in a start just once in his last five starts.
The Brewers will send Jhoulys Chacin to the mound tonight to try and get the Brewers the series lead. Chacin hasn’t pitched all that poorly this month, but his record is 0-3 in three starts. While Chacin’s ERA of 3.68 in September isn’t terrible, he has pitched five innings or fewer in all of his September starts. That is not at all what the Brewers need out of a guy that has been one of their best pitchers this season.
In his last start, Chacin threw just five innings against this Pirates team, allowed two earned runs and picked up the loss. The Brewers are hoping that Chacin can get them some more innings tonight as they look to continue their push towards the playoffs.
The Pirates have been a very profitable team to bet on this season. When they are hot, they are hot. And when they are cold, they are terrible. This is a very heart on their sleeve type of team, and you can tell just what type of effort you are going to get from them. And right now, they are playing great baseball and would love to sweep the Brewers out of the playoffs in this series. If they can’t make it, then at least ruin things for their division rivals, right?
And with the Brewers slipping up ever so slightly, and Chacin looking shaky, I think the time is right to back Pittsburgh as a home underdog. If you are a daily ready of my picks, you know home dogs are my favorite type of picks, and that is what I am going to take in this one. Pittsburgh is hot, Milwaukee is on the ropes, and I think Nova out duels Chacin tonight. Give me the Pittsburgh Pirates as home underdogs tonight in game one at +122!