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May 29, 2016

There is one pick today.

Take Pittsburgh Pirates (-120) on the ML against Texas Rangers risking 3.6% to win 3%.
(Liriano and Perez must both start for wager to have action)

Two lefties get the ball in the 'rubber match' of this interleague series. The Pirates won the opener easily by getting to another left-handed pitcher, Texas 'Ace', Cole Hamels. They then got handcuffed by the talented Japanese right-hander, Yu Darvish and now find themselves stepping up the plate against a lefty that is not in the same class as Cole Hamels. Pittsburgh is 6-2 against southpaws this season and typically hits them very well. The same can't be said about the Rangers.

Many of the power-hitters in the Texas lineup are left-handed themselves, guys like Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Nomar Mazara. Lefty vs. Lefty matchups generally favor the pitcher and it wouldn't surprise us if the crafty veteran, Francisco Liriano baffled some batters. Liriano is a strike-out pitcher that has some 'nasty stuff' and is capable of having success against a Rangers offense that is sometimes overzealous and chases pitches out of the strike zone. The key for him will be to limit the number of walks he issues as they can come back to hunt him. Otherwise, he should have the pitching edge over Texas starter, Perez as he has a better arm and is more experienced.

Martin Perez has troubles with handing out free passes himself and in fact his 1.23 K/BB ratio is among the worst in the Majors! He's pitched well in the month of May but has been lucky as well. Many of the base-runners were left stranded either by him or an reliever that came into the game and cleaned up his mess. He's been fortunate to escape some of those jams and should find it tough to navigate this righty-heavy Pittsburgh lineup. The likes of Starlin Marte and Andrew McCutchen are not only home-run threats but also have a way of making pitchers pay when they get on the base against them as they are always a danger to swipe a bag and put themselves in scoring positions. Marte has already made Texas pay over the first two games of this 3-game set and he's not the only one. The ability of this offense to play both 'small ball' and 'go yard' makes them more unpredictable and tougher to defend.

One of the main advantages Pittsburgh has over Texas this afternoon is their defensive proficiency. With Odor serving his suspension and everyday short-stop Elvis Andrus getting the day off, it'll be Profar and Hanser Alberto in the middle of the infield for the Rangers which increases the probability of fielding errors. Jeff Bannister's team has already looked shaky in defense over the past two days and now having an inexperienced duo right in the middle for sharply hit ground balls could be an issue. Especially considering, those two have had very few starts this season and none together! Their communication and rapport is unlikely to be as effortless and natural as the one that Odor and Andrus enjoy.

The Pirates have the better pitcher, defense and offense in this particular game in our opinion, not to mention a more established bullpen with a closer that led the Majors in 'saves' last season! Meanwhile the Texas bullpen has had some issues and recently saw closer Shawn Tolleson demoted with Sam Dyson getting the job. Dyson was less than sharp yesterday and he wasn't the only one as the Rangers used their best bullpen arms to secure the 'W'. Clint Hurdle has yet to call upon his best arms in the 'pen in this series and might just elect to do so today. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Liriano is 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA in nine previous games against Texas.
  • Pirates are 46-32 against left-handed starters over the last 3 seasons.
  • Texas is just 5-16 in Perez games after he had a 'quality start' in the previous outing!

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