We picked up the win yesterday when we backed the Atlanta Braves on the run line against the New York Mets. The bet was as much of a bet against Mets starter Jason Vargas as it was on this Braves team. Vargas had been terrible all season long, and it felt like he was going to get touched up again last night. And for the most part that is what happened. Vargas allowed four runs in just five innings of work and the Braves built up an early 4-1 lead it looked like the blowout was on.
Then the Braves bats cooled down. Atlanta couldn’t manage to score a run off this putrid Mets bullpen, and we had to sweat out this cover as the Mets threatened to tighten the game up late. In the end, the Braves won 4-2, and we covered and won our bet, but it certainly wasn’t as easy of a win as I thought it would be early in the game. Either way, we will take the win and head back out today looking for more value when we break down the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The St. Louis Cardinals are in Pittsburg Friday for game one of a three-game weekend series with the Pirates. This series could prove to be very pivotal as both teams enter the series with identical 56-53 records on the season, and are six and a half games back for the National League Central Division race and three games back for the second wild-card spot in the NL.
Starting tonight for the Cardinals is John Gant (3-4 3.49 ERA), and for the Pirates, it is Chris Archer (3-5 4.31 ERA). The Pirates are big -152 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Every year at the trade deadline for the last several years Chris Archer’s name would get thrown around as the sexy pick for a contending team to snatch up and ride him to a World Series. It was like the Masters, a tradition like no other, that we came to expect. Like clockwork, the Rays would be struggling by this point of the season and shopping their young ace to anyone that would listen. Yet he never actually ever got moved.
Until now. Archer finally got moved last week, to Pittsburgh of all places! To me, it was the most shocking move of the deadline. Archer always seemed destined to end up in Boston or New York, not Pittsburgh. Especially not a Pittsburgh team that was in fourth place when they made the move.
The Pirates got hot right before the deadline and reeled off eleven straight wins and turned what was certainly going to be a selling season at the deadline into an improbable buy of the biggest named starter on the market. Archer will make his National League debut today as he tries to turn around what has been a rough season for him this year.
Archer has really struggled this season. He missed over a month of action with an injury and hasn’t been all that effective when he has pitched. Archer hasn’t recorded a win since May 17th, a span of eight starts. In July he was 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA and failed to make it out of the fifth inning in half of his four starts. Archer is being touted as the savior in Pittsburgh, we will see tonight if he is going to live up to the large billing.
John Gant has been a bit of an unlucky loser all season long. He has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen and has been solid in both roles. Despite his solid results and an ERA of just 3.49, he is just 3-4 on the season. He has one start against the Pirates this season, and he put in five and a third innings of work and allowed three earned runs. Not terrible by any means, but the Cards lost the game anyway.
Isn’t it strange how much one week can change a team’s outlook? The Pirates made the controversial decision to go all in on the playoffs this season when they made the move to get Archer, while the Cards shook up their bullpen in a big way and made several moves slanted more towards the future.
Statistically, neither team has really gotten much better or worse. None of the moves made by either squad are moves that are going to greatly impact their ability to win games. Yet even though they have identical records, the sentiment is that this Pirates team is the better of the two teams right now. I don’t know if I buy that.
Chris Archer has bee pretty bad all season long. The guy’s ERA is almost an entire run higher than his career average and moving to a new league where he doesn’t know a single hitter might prove to be difficult. Generally, when a pitcher goes from the American League to the National League, their performance gets better. But that isn’t always the case. Just look at what Yu Darvish has done in the NL since coming over from the AL last season at the trade deadline.
Archer spent most of his season playing for the Rays and being a big underdog in almost every game he started. Now he moves to a brand-new league, to a team with the identical record as his Rays have right now, and he is a big favorite? Something doesn’t smell right here.
The Cards made those bullpens moves in the last two weeks yet have managed to win six out of their last nine games and are still hanging around contention in the National League. The Pirates made what everyone considered to be win-now moves and they have lost four out of their last seven games.
To me, this feels like a dead even game. You have a starter in Archer that it is going to be very hard to predict what he is going to be able to do and these teams are very evenly matched. So, I will do what I always do when I see a game that rates out to be very even, I will take the side getting the dog money. And in this one, I actually get some very significant juice as I can back the Cards at +142. And that is what I will do tonight. Give me the St. Louis Cardinals to spoil Chris Archer’s debut in Pittsburgh tonight as big underdogs!