8:10 p.m. ET – Pirates at Twins (-160 ML) O/U: 8
The 9-10 Pirates travel to the Twin Cities and Target Field to take on the 6-11 Twins for a three-game interleague series. Pittsburgh has not lost a series in its last five and has won three of its last four games. The 2020 American League Central champion Twins are struggling out of the gate, losers of four in a row. They could not be happier to return home. Minnesota lost its last contest, 13-12, in excruciating fashion in 10 innings to the Athletics. After taking a two-run lead into the bottom of the 10th, a costly error on a routine ground ball to third base on what would have been the final out allowed Oakland to walk it off for the win.
About the Pirates
The Pirates were expected to be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball from start to finish this season after trading away their best player in first baseman Josh Bell last offseason. However, Pittsburgh has been pesky so far this season. Although they post a run differential of -16 runs, they are only one game below .500 because they have been good in close games. The Pirates have a record of 4-1 in games decided by one run this season.
Second baseman Adam Frazier embodies the scrappy attitude that defines the city of Pittsburgh and he has done it well so far this season, batting .329 with nine RBI in the early going.
Third baseman Colin Moran has helped carry the offensive workload as well, batting .294 with four home runs and a team-leading 15 RBI. While the offense does not boast off-the-charts numbers, they have been far from the issue for the Pirates.The pitching staff owns a 4.75 ERA through 19 games, which is the fourth-highest in all of baseball.
About the Twins
Anyone who watched Wednesday’s final play can tell you that it seems like the forces of nature are working against the Twins winning games. Minnesota seems to be struggling to find its identity early on. The Twins set a record for the most home runs by a team in MLB history back in 2019 with 307, yet this year they are only one home run above last in the American League.
Help is on the way in the form of designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who has returned to the lineup after starting the season injured. Cruz is batting .353 with six home runs and 14 RBI in just 51 at-bats to start the year. It also appears that the former top prospect in all of baseball, center fielder Byron Buxton, has finally put it together at the plate in his seventh year in the league. The 27-year-old Buxton is batting .432 with six home runs and 11 RBI to start the year and seems to be finally healthy after battling injuries early on in his career.
A major reason for Minnesota’s regression early on has been the pitching staff. The Twins had the fourth-lowest team ERA in baseball last year with a 3.58, but this season they are in the bottom half of the league with a 4.36.
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Diamondbacks||+1½ (-150)||+135||O 8 (-105)|
|Braves||-1½ (+130)||-160||U 8 (-115)|
The Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh is handing the ball to J.T. Brubaker on Friday for the series opener. Brubaker is off to a great start this season, with a 2-0 record and 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched across three starts. Brubaker has not allowed more than one run in any of his starts this season, each against solid offensive teams in the Brewers, Cubs and Reds.
Veteran Left-hander J.A. Happ will be toeing the rubber to try and put the four-game losing streak to a halt for Minnesota. Happ has thrown 8.2 innings this year in two starts with a 3.12 ERA. Happ has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in both starts, which is less than ideal for a pitcher brought on to eat up a lot of innings.
What’s the Bet?
This is a game where water always finds its level. The Pirates are worse than their record and the Twins are better than theirs. Brubaker is having a great season, but he is not a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, and Happ will throw over 150 innings by season’s end.
Minnesota is coming off a gut-wrenching loss and will be looking to take it out on an inferior Pittsburgh team all weekend long. At 6-11, do not expect the Twins to let their foot off the gas if they get an early lead. In fact, expect Minnesota to take out some frustration on Friday night in the form of blowing the Pirates out of the water. Take the Twins’ run line in a game they should comfortably win.