Pittsburgh Pirates +130 at Cincinnati Reds -138 (Total: 8)
Wandy Rodriguez vs. Matt Latos
Tonight is the beginning of an unexpectedly do-or-die series in the National League Central, with two of the hottest teams in baseball (and the two best records in the NL) begin a three-game set at Great American Ballpark. The Reds enter with a three and a half game lead over the Pirates and both have recently put some distance between themselves and the Cardinals (who are seven games back of the Reds). This series will go a long way towards determining what kind of race we will have down the stretch.
The Reds are a staggering 17-3 since the All-Star break, and have done most of it without their best player and the only regular hitting over .300 on the entire roster, Joey Votto. Their ten game win streak was snapped Monday by the Padres, but the Reds got right back to their winning way, taking the remaining three games in the series. The Pirates have been a fantastic 12-7 since the midsummer’s classic, but for that plus .600 win percentage, all they have to show for it is four and a half games lost in the standings. That’s pretty rough…
The Pirates start newly acquired Wandy Rodriguez tonight, and he will make a fantastic addition to the Pirates’ staff. However, that advantage might not be evident tonight. The Reds have faced Wandy many times in an Astros uniform, and have gotten the better of him fairly consistently over the last two seasons. In his three starts against the Reds in 2012 he has a 6.35 ERA. With the way the ball has been literally FLYING out of Great American Small-park this week, it is hard to see Rodriguez shutting down this scorching Reds offense.
Meanwhile the Reds hand the ball to Mat Latos, who has been feast or famine most of the season, but has been more of the former lately, holding opponents to two or less runs in six of his last seven outings. He has been dominant against the Bucos throughout his career, posting a 3-0 record and a 2.16 ERA in four career starts.
It is hard to find much fault with the July play of either one of these teams. Not that Cincinnati is a veteran squad my any stretch, but for Pittsburgh it is not overstating things to call this their biggest series in well over a decade. So how will the young Pirates handle their first glimpse of the postseason-like spotlight? It will be interesting to watch, that’s for sure. I don’t think they will wilt, but tonight is a really unfavorable pitching matchup for them, and for that reason I give the edge to Cincinnati.
Free Pick: Cincinnati Reds to WIN -138