Josh Bell hit a walk-off three-run homer in the first game of Pittsburgh’s second half to give the Pirates a 5-2 win. It got the Bucs to within a half-game of the Birds as these two teams prepare, at at the very least, to play spoiler for the next two months.
Bell’s shot also hit Seung-Hwan Oh with the loss and brought him one step closer to a demotion of some sort. Oh hasn’t been the guy the Cardinals figured he would be after a dominant first season in Major League Baseball last year. A terrible start handicapped his ERA but he had it down to 2.88 at the end of May. It’s back up to 4.17 after last night, and climbing. His struggles have put the onus on Trevor Rosenthal, who hasn’t responded well (though he did record a shutout eighth last night).
Pittsburgh’s starting pitcher tonight, Jameson Taillon, is pitching like a man with a new lease on life after getting a cancer diagnosis before returning to the rotation just five weeks later. In the five starts since, he’s held the opponent scoreless for three. He gave up six in the other two, combined, striking out 29 and walking nine.
He will have to deal with a St. Louis lineup that’s finally healthy. Mike Matheny can no longer keep Tommy Pham out of his lineup and, in fact, he’s right in the middle of things in the two-hole now. Yadi Molina has the lowest on-base percentage in the lineup but it’s hard to believe he’ll hover around .300 without getting hot for at least a couple weeks this summer. Paul DeJong is at .321 and everybody else is over .330. They’ve struggled to score for a lot of the season but the Cardinals will cause some trouble at full strength.
The Pirates also started slowly but the numbers don’t look bad now, either. The on-base percentages are better than St. Louis’. Gregory Polanco has the worst of any starter at .319. Time will tell if ‘Cutch will sustain his hot second half of the first half. He leads the way at .383 after a dismal start.
Lance Lynn set the Pirates down the first time he pitched against them this season with seven innings of three-hit ball. That was in April. He gave up seven earned and was yanked in the sixth inning against them three weeks ago.
But that start came immediately after he gave up seven runs in Baltimore. Those two seven-run outings stand out in what’s otherwise been a clean season for Lynn. Take that week away from this season and his ERA is still in the mid-2s. His 1.13 WHIP still gave him a case to be an All-Star.
All the better, now. Lynn will be rested, that rough stretch behind him. I’ve got Pittsburgh’s team total at 3.5 with the Cardinals’ somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0. So I lean St. Louis at plus-money; the under 8.5 with extra juice is a one unit play.
Free Pick: Under 8.5 (-120)