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Twins at Pirates – Free Pick June 20th

Minnesota Twins +115 at Pittsburgh Pirates -125 (Total: 8)

Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.24 ERA) vs. Eric Bedard (4-7, 4.36 ERA)

The Pirates, despite a negative run differential and a projected win total that puts them in the high 70’s at seasons end continue to remain in the hunt in the National League Central, and have taken advantage of a tough set of one-run losses by division leading Cincinnati to close to within just two and a half games of first place.  We’ve seen early spurts from Pittsburgh in recent season, only to watch them slide back below .500 and out of contention, keeping their staggering nineteen-season below .500 streak intact.

The Pirates are playing very good baseball right now, winners of three straight and looking to win a season-high fourth straight game tonight, completing a sweep of the visiting Twins.  The Pirates are known as a very light-hitting team, and deserved slow.  Their .230 team batting average is one of the worst in all of baseball.  However, they seem to have woken up the bats a little this week, scoring 25 runs over the last three games.

Francisco Liriano has brutal stats this season, and in fact has been one of the statistically worst starting pitchers in all of baseball over the past three seasons; partly indicative of his struggles and partly indicative of his amazing potential and stuff.  They keep running him out to the hill year after year, waiting… hoping… it will finally click again.

And maybe it is finally starting to.  He is just 1-2 in his last three starts but has a 3.04 ERA in his three appearances since returning to the starting rotation.  The fact he was “demoted” to the bullpen tells you that even the hapless Twins are running out of patience with this one-time phenom.  Perhaps he will be able to continue his recent surge of solid pitching tonight against the Pirates.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.  In fact, I won’t be.  At just -125 you can get a red-hot Pirate team at home against one of the worst teams in baseball starting one of the worst starters over the past three years in all of MLB.  That seems like the very definition of a good value play to me, and exactly the kind of value I like to look for when scouring all the lines and pitching matchups.

We’ve gotten nipped two days in a row by tough one-run late losses.  I think tonight’s game goes a little smoother and less dramatically.  Give me the Bucos at home to grab a nice series sweep and continue their improbably pressure on the division lead.

Free Pick:  Pittsburgh Pirates -125