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Pirates vs. Phillies MLB Pick – July 3rd

There doesn’t look to be a ton of value on Monday’s MLB slate, but we do get an interesting matchup at Citizens Bank Park between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. Neither of these teams look like playoff contenders right now, but we get two talented pitchers in a hitter’s park. This game also provides tight betting lines, which makes it one of the harder games to gauge tonight.

This could easily be a game to avoid, but there could also be value in two solid pitchers facing off – especially with a playable Total (8.5). Pittsburgh and Philly do not boast imposing offenses and neither team has crazy home/road splits. The Pirates actually limp into this series, losing three straight and 6 of their last 10. They’ll be putting a nasty 16-23 road record to the test, while their offense has not shown up much lately, scoring five or fewer runs in each of their last four outings.

Things could change in a hitter’s park tonight, but the Pirates in general are rarely an easy offense to trust. The same goes for the Phillies, who can’t even consistently win at home (14-20) and haven’t been much better than Pittsburgh lately (5-5 over their last 10 games). The Phillies could get a mild edge at home, of course, while Aaron Nola gives Ivan Nova a worthy opposing arm on the other side.

Where is the value here, though? Let’s take a closer look to find out:

Pittsburgh Pirates (-102) @ Philadelphia Phillies (-118) Total: 8.5

Ivan Nova (8-5, 3.08 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (5-5, 4.13 ERA)

Picking the Pirates straight up is probably the knee-jerk (and wise) bet. Nova is a solid arm and he’s wrecked the Phillies (2-0, 1.80 ERA) in his career and it’s probably worth noting that the Phillies rank dead last in power (30th in home runs) against right-handed pitching, as well as 24th in OBP. That puts Nova in a fairly favorable spot at first glance.

Of course, Nova hasn’t been quite as successful out of the pitcher-friendly PNC Park. Nova has just a 2-3 record on the road this year and has given up 8 home runs and a .274 overall batting average, along with an average 3.49 ERA. I don’t see any of that as earth-shattering, but that negative production in a potent park could easily spell trouble.

On the other side we get Nola, who is probably the more talented arm, but at age 24 isn’t necessarily as polished or controlled as Nova. He’s at home, but his weak 4.97 ERA at his home park is  good indicator of how difficult it is to consistently pitch well in this stadium. Nola’s sample size there is small (4 starts), but 14 earned runs and 4 home runs doesn’t sound very good. Add in some struggles against these Pirates in his career (0-2, 5.73 ERA) and it’s easy to sour on Nola a bit.

There is reason to get down on Nola, but the splits are still in his favor. The Pirates aren’t a scary offense in general, as they rank 28th in home runs against righties and are just mediocre (18th) at even getting on base when facing right-handed pitching.

There crazy thing is there isn’t one stance we can bite down hard on here. Nola and Nova are both steady arms, but the splits aren’t ideal and the park could give both serious problems. The two kickers are Nova’s tendency to get away with hard contact (10+ fly balls in 8 of his last 10 contests) and Pittsburgh’s positive park shift. The Pirates aren’t normally a dangerous team when it comes to power, but they do have some scary bats and this park will give them some chances. Ditto for the Phillies, who could finally inflict some damage on Nova’s career ERA against them.

I’m not sure there is enough value or safety to trust either team here, so instead we can lean on Nova’s tendencies, Pittsburgh’s park shift and this park’s upside in general. All of that points to a solid shot at the Over.

Pick: Over 8.5 (-115)

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