Just as I really needed a winner on Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in dire need of a “W” to stop a long skid of losing. And, just maybe, the Pirates can get back into the win column in the finale of a three-game series with Atlanta on Wednesday. The Pirates get Gerrit Cole back. And their ace will look to do what he does best: be a stopper. He is a -120 favorite against Alex Wood at the Atlanta Braves.
Pittsburgh has lost seven straight games, but it has not found itself out of the chase for a spot in the NL playoffs. The Pirates have fallen out of immediate contention in the division – now 6.5 games behind Milwaukee – but are right there in the Wildcard. The Bucs sit in fourth place, but are just 2.5 games behind the Giants and two games back of Atlanta. The season isn’t lost, but something has to turn around quickly. And Gerrit Cole hopes to be that spark.
Cole returns to make his first start since early July on Wednesday night at PNC Park. The big right-hander has been on the shelf with lat soreness and the Pirates’ rotation has struggled to hold form without their man at the top. Cole may be on a bit stricter pitch count than usual, but there should be a certain level of excitement among the home crowd that will give Pittsburgh that extra bit of life.
Andrew McCutchen also returned on Tuesday night, but failed to really make his “comeback.” The reigning NL MVP finished his first game back from broken ribs with an 0-for-4 night that included a strikeout. The Pirates lost 11-3.
For Atlanta, Alex Wood will try to keep his strong season going with his first appearance against Pittsburgh this year. Wood has been both a starter and reliever this season, but has made 17 starts. He’s just 9-9, but has an ERA just over 3.00 and a WHIP a tad over 1.20. A lefty with an unorthodox delivery, teams often have trouble picking the ball up against Wood. And it won’t be easy for Pittsburgh to get to him in their first chance this season.
That said, I think Pittsburgh has too much on the line tomorrow with so much anticipation. The return of Cole and hopefully McCutchen’s first good game since coming off the DL will be enough to at least stop the losing streak. Take the small home favorite.
Free Pick: Pittsburgh (-120)
YTD: 29-23-2 +1.31