The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates open a three-game set at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Friday, so I’ve prepared the best betting pick and odds for the middle contest set for Saturday night, as these two NL Central foes meet each other for the first time in 2021.
According to BetRivers Sportsbook, the Pirates were listed as slight -110 favorites to win the opener, while the Cardinals are -127 road favorites for Saturday’s clash. St. Louis will send its top ace to the mound, and Jack Flaherty is 4-0 in his first four starts of the season.
The Cardinals look to retain their second spot in the NL Central
The 13-12 St. Louis Cardinals entered the Pirates series as the second-best team in the NL Central, only half a game ahead of Pittsburgh and a couple of games behind Milwaukee. They just split a four-game home set against Philadelphia, outlasting the Phillies 4-3 in the closer on Thursday to record their fifth win in the last seven outings.
St. Louis is 12th in the majors in runs scored per game (4.40). The Cards have smacked 31 home runs (tied-6th in the MLB) while slashing just .221/.296/.379. They are just below the league average in total bases (308), so the Cardinals certainly have a lot of room for improvement on the offensive end.
Jack Flaherty will look to improve his record Saturday night, and the 25-year-old righty owns a 3.18 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 27/8 K/BB ratio across 28.1 innings of work. After tossing 4.1 frames in a no-decision against Cincinnati on an Opening Day, Flaherty has recorded four wins in a row. He’s 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA in nine career starts against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates surprisingly won six of their last nine games prior to Friday’s opener
The Pittsburgh Pirates entered this series with a 12-12 record, snapping a three-game winning streak with a 9-6 loss to Kansas City on Thursday afternoon. They’ve been terrific lately, going 6-3 over their previous nine showings including a pair of nice 6-2 road victories over Minnesota.
Pittsburgh is struggling offensively, but over their previous eight games overall, the Pirates have yielded more than two runs only twice. They are 23rd in the majors in runs scored per game (3.92), 18th in batting average (.230), and 26th in slugging percentage (.365).
Trevor Cahill will toe the slab for the Pirates on Saturday. He’s 1-2 with a horrible 7.11 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, as the 33-year-old righty has allowed 22 hits and five walks through 19 innings of work while striking out 19. Cahill is 1-3 with a 4.02 ERA in six career starts and eight relief appearances against St. Louis, but he hasn’t met the Cards since 2017.
- 5-2 in the last seven games overall
- 15-5 in the last 20 games against Pittsburgh
- 2-13 in the last 15 home games against St. Louis
The Cardinals have owned the Pirates lately. Excluding Friday’s opener, the Card have win 15 of their last 20 encounters with the Pirates and 13 of their previous 15 meetings at PNC Park.
Both teams have played well over the last ten days, especially on the defensive end. I’m expecting a hard-fought battle, and with Jack Flaherty on the mound, the Cards should be able to escape with a victory.
Pick: Take St. Louis Cardinals at -127
The Pirates’ bullpen has been impressive in the last few weeks, but the Cards’ relievers have done a good job, too. Pittsburgh’s ‘pen owns the eighth-best ERA in baseball (3.43). On the other side, the Cardinals’ bullpen is 16th with a 3.91 ERA while posting impressive seven saves (tied-7th).
I’m looking for Jack Flaherty to dominate the Pirates’ bats. If both bullpens do a good job, this clash should be finished in the under, as neither side can brag with a prolific offense.
Pick: Go under 7.5 runs at -125