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PIRATES BEGIN KEY 7-GAME ROAD TRIP MONDAY IN ATLANTA
Tue, 26 Jul 2011 05:58 PM EDT

PITTSBURGH PIRATES (52-47, +15.5 Units)

at ATLANTA BRAVES (59-43, +7.4 Units)

First pitch: Thursday, 7:10 p.m. EDT
Line: Atlanta -180, Pittsburgh +170, Total: 7

Sportsbook.com Prop Bets:
Pittsburgh Total Runs: 3 – Over (EVEN), Under (-130)
Atlanta Total Runs: 4 – Over (-115), Under (-115)
Team to Score First: Pittsburgh (EVEN), Atlanta (-120)
Will There be a 1st-Inning Run? Yes +130, No -160

The Pirates start a rough seven-game road trip on Monday night when they visit Atlanta for the start of a four-game series before finishing the week in Philadelphia. The Braves offense was sporadic during their just-completed 3-4 road trip, as they scored three runs or less in the four losses, but tallied at least six runs in the three victories. Baseball scores.

Although the pitching matchup of James McDonald versus Tim Hudson favors Atlanta, this game could come down to the bullpens, and both teams have had great relief work this year. Pittsburgh’s bullpen has a 3.03 ERA and 30 saves, while Atlanta’s relievers have a 3.09 ERA (2.29 at home) and 35 saves. These two clubs also have similar offenses in this matchup, as Pittsburgh is hitting .252 with 4.3 runs per game on the road and Atlanta has identical numbers of .252 BA and 4.3 RPG at home this year. With so many similar factors, the pick here is PITTSBURGH at very favorable +170 odds.

The FoxSheets provide a three-star trend backing the Pirates.

Play On – All underdogs with a money line of +100 or higher (PITTSBURGH) – poor offensive team – scoring <=4.3 runs/game on the season (NL), after scoring 4 runs or less 6 straight games. (100-83 over the last 5 seasons.) (54.6%, +57.5 units. Rating = 3*).

Like most opponents recently, Atlanta has had the upper hand in head-to-head contests with the Pirates. The Braves are 9-4 in the past 13 home meetings, and also won both meetings in Pittsburgh in May. But the Pirates have been a strong road team this year, going 26-22 (+13.4 Units) and outscoring opponents by an average score of 4.3 to 4.0. Baseball odds.

Pirates starter James McDonald (6-4, 4.15 ERA) has pitched very well recently. He has allowed three runs or less in 11 straight starts, going 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA over this span, and leading his team to an 8-3 record. His 18 strikeouts and 28 ground-ball outs (compared to 23 fly-ball outs) over his past three starts are encouraging signs for future success. He has also stood tall in his career against Atlanta, posting a 1.06 ERA and .190 opponents’ BA in 17 innings against Braves hitting.

Tim Hudson (9-6, 3.39 ERA) has also been on a hot streak for Atlanta with eight straight starts of allowing three runs or less. He is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over this span. Hudson has also been great at home, going 6-3 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 12 starts at Turner Field. Current Pirates are only batting .208 in their careers versus Hudson (11-for-53), but no Pittsburgh batter has more than 10 lifetime at-bats against the 36-year-old right-hander.

Both teams are pretty quiet on the injury front, as Atlanta expects to have two players return to action Monday. 3B Chipper Jones, who has been out since July 8 with a torn meniscus, is expected to be activated from the DL, while OF Jordan Schafer, who hasn’t played since last Wednesday because of a jammed finger, is also expected to suit up Monday. Pirates outfielder Alex Presley (left hand contusion) was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday afternoon. Baseball spreads.


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