The last time the Brewers and the Pirates were expected to be this competitive in the division in the same year might have been before I was even born. While Milwaukee has been the surprise story a month and a half into 2014, Pittsburgh is still trying to dig itself out of a poor start after making the playoffs for the first time since 1991 last year. The two sides get together for a series beginning Tuesday and we have a dandy of a pitching matchup between two young hard throwers who are beginning to flash brilliance that indicates an impressive career to come in the NL Central. Gerrit Cole leads his Pirates into Milwaukee to try and topple Marco Estrada and the Brew Crew. The home team is a small favorite with a total teetering between 7 and 7.5 runs.
Just right into this one. This play depends on whether or not you can get the hook on the total. Both the Pirates and Brew Crew play pretty predictable games in the NL Central and I don’t think this one will be any different. You have two very good arms going up against lineups that neither is particularly afraid to challenge and that should result in a game with less than 8 runs. The key will be getting a number greater than 7.0 – even if it means buying the hook.
Estrada has hit a bit of a decline over his last few starts – allowing 3 or 4 runs instead of 1 or 2. But he gets another shot at Pittsburgh after throwing six innings and giving up just one run in his last start against the Bucs this season. He’s yet to have a start at home where he’s surrendered less than three runs, but today should be that day. Estrada has the stuff that forces an offense to string hits together against pitches that are consistently above average. The Pirates simply don’t have that type of firepower, which is why this is an excellent spot for the 30-year-old. Look for Estrada to go six innings and allow two runs or less. Meanwhile, Cole continues to throw the ball very well despite consistently giving up three, four runs per game. I think this can only last so long before the young ace starts firing shutouts. He had his best outing of the season last time out against Milwaukee when he went 8 innings and gave up just 1 run. With Aramis Ramirez now headed to the DL, Milwaukee’s offense continues to deplete. That’s great news for Cole and for under backers here. This one goes low. Just make sure to get 7.5 even if you have to pay for it.
Free Pick: Under 7.5 (-125)
2014 YTD: 13-6 +5.74