The Pittsburgh Pirates head back to Miller Park for game three of an intense four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Pittsburgh stole the first two games of the series fairly easily, winning game one on Monday 8-1 and taking Tuesday’s game two, 7-3. The Brewers haven’t put up much of a fight yet in this series, with the game being over almost immediately last night after Zach Davies gave up six runs in the first inning.
The Brew Crew still stand tall atop the NL Central at 38-35, but have not looked great lately, dropping their last two games and going just 5-5 over their last 10 contests. In fact, had it not been for some late-game heroics from Eric Thames in their previous series, the Brewers may have already relinquished their hold on first place in the division. With the Chicago Cubs still just 0.5 games back out of the top spot, the Brewers may want to do all they can to focus on getting a win in this one.
Pittsburgh isn’t just beating the Brewers these days. The Pirates are heating up at the right time, winning 7 of their last 10 games and at 33-38 are slowly looking like a viable threat to storm the top of the division. Pittsburgh will have to polish up their shaky 14-20 road record and winning a third straight game at Miller Park registers as difficult, but they could do exactly that when the two NL Central rivals clash again tonight.
Are we to ride the Pirates and their value as an upset play again tonight? Should we back the Brewers? Or is the Total the most intriguing bet in Miller Park? Let’s find out as we dive into this matchup and locate the best betting angle to attack:
Pittsburgh Pirates (+112) @ Milwaukee Brewers (-132) Total: 9.5
Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.16 ERA) vs. Junior Guerra (1-1, 2.84 ERA)
Right off the bat I’m not overly high on taking the Pirates as road underdogs here. Their bats have really been lively and could again be dangerous in a hitter’s park, but stealing a third straight game on the road against a rival is not an easy task. They are where the straight up value lies, however, so we need to take a closer look to be sure we don’t want that bet.
It probably starts on the mound for me. Trevor Williams is not a scary matchup for the Brew Crew, as the 25-year old righty has not displayed a ton of strikeout upside in his second season in the majors and sports a shaky 4.94 ERA on the road. Milwaukee does K a ton, but a pitcher who isn’t specifically stable on the road and doesn’t make batters miss at an elite level is not the type of arm I tend to have confidence in against a powerful Brewers lineup.
Williams also gets wrecked by left-handed hitters and the Brewers have two mashers specifically in Eric Thames and Travis Shaw that could make quick work of him in this one. Adding to the pile here is recent form, which hasn’t been great for Williams, who has coughed up 10 hits and 8 earned runs over his last two starts. Those games even came in the pitcher-friendly PNC Park, too, so betting on Williams to shutdown the Brewers on the road suddenly feels like a significant reach.
Beyond the ability to truly confide in Williams in this spot, this is just a good splits matchup for the Brewers. Milwaukee can destroy righties (7th in HRs versus right-handed pitching) and also tends to explode at home (2nd in long balls at home in 2017). Considering they’ve been rather dormant to start this series, a positive matchup at their home base could give way to a mild (if not elite) offensive explosion tonight.
It’s not all bad for the Pirates, as they get the beatable Junior Guerra on the other side. Guerra tends to be stable, if unspectacular, as he still has a very clean ERA on the year and has actually posted a respectable 3.20 ERA in a dangerous ballpark. Guerra’s numbers benefit from earlier success, though, as he hasn’t been amazing over his last two outings (6 earned runs) and can give up a ton of contact.
He’s another pitcher that isn’t making many bats miss, but he does have favorable splits here. Guerra gets a Pirates offense that is not normally known for the long ball (28th in home runs vs. righties) and ranks just 16th against right-handed pitching in terms of batting average. Pittsburgh does see a positive shift in park environment and could easily keep their momentum going, however.
Ultimately, I don’t trust Williams or the Pirates enough to back them despite presenting some decent value. I also don’t trust Guerra or the Brewers. I do trust the splits and this park, however, and after two one-sided affairs I think this series is due for a two-way fist fight. This Total isn’t too high when we look at the power the Brewers offer and the upside this park presents. We can chase the Over tonight.