Pirates at Brewers – Free Pick September 1st

Pittsburgh Pirates +120 at Milwaukee Brewers -127 (Total: 8)

A.J. Burnett vs. Marco Estrada

After enjoying a deliriously blissful summer, things are right on the verge of turning ugly, once again, for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The slim division lead the enjoyed at the All Star break has turned into a ten game deficit, as the Reds stomped on the gas pedal and left them in the lurch.  Even the wildcard spot is beginning to look out of reach for Pittsburgh.  They are only ½ game back in the wildcard race, but with Atlanta opening a three game lead on the second wildcard, the Pirates will be in a fierce dogfight with St. Louis and the Dodgers for a postseason berth, and both teams have significantly more firepower on their rosters.

That makes this weekend’s series against the red-hot Brewers absolutely vital.  They dropped the first game in ugly 9-3 fashion, but will try to rebound with their staff ace, AJ Burnett on the hill facing the 2-5 Marco Estrada.  It looks good on paper for the Pirates, but there is a reason why they are pretty decent underdogs tonight according to Vegas.  So let’s dig into some numbers a bit and see if we can find a wagering edge.

AJ Burnett on the mound has meant good things for the Pirates this season.  They are a whopping 18-6 in games he has started (his personal record, also impressive; 15-5).  However, three of those six losses have come in his last four outings.  Apparently Vegas thinks this is a sign of more bad things to come, as the Pirates are +120 tonight.  I’m not so sure Burnett doesn’t have a few more big-time starts in him this season.  Burnett is a durable starter.  He has thrown between 188 and 212 innings in each of his last four seasons.  So, I am inclined to believe that at just 157 innings pitched in 2012 his recent bobbles have been a rough streak rather than a pitcher who is out of gas.

For the Brewers, Marco Estrada is just 2-5 on the season, but has looked good in his last three starts, going 2-0 and posting a 2.25 ERA.   Keep in mind that two of those three starts (and both wins) came against the hapless Chicago Cubs.

Estrada pitched well against the Pirates earlier this season, earning a win and striking out 11 batters.  However, I just don’t think this is a good line to bet on Milwaukee.  It is laying a pretty steep price, especially facing a pitcher for a desperate team who has won 75% of the games in which he has started.

Give me the plus-money line and the Pirates to earn a desperately need win tonight in Milwaukee.

Free Pick:  Pittsburgh Pirates to WIN +120