San Francisco Giants (-120, 7 o/u) at Pittsburgh Pirates (+110)
Two NL playoff contenders will clash tonight in Steeltown as the San Francisco Giants (65-56, 30-32 Away) visit the Pittsburgh Pirates (72-47, 42-19 Home) at PNC Park (7:05 PM Eastern) for the second of a four-game series.
Both squads find themselves second in their respective divisions and need to heat up down the stretch to have any chance at avoiding the Wild Card game. Of course, the Giants might be happy just to reach the postseason in any capacity. They are currently 2.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West, and a full four games behind the Cubs for the second Wild Card berth.
They had won six of eight to inch closer to a playoff spot, but have since dropped two straight, including last night’s series opener (4-0). The Giants’ order was completely shut down by Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who went 6.2 innings, allowing four hits and no runs while striking out eight.
The win was the third in a row for the Pirates. Despite sitting 4.5 games behind the Cardinals – the top team in the MLB – in the race for the NL Central crown, Pittsburgh owns the second-best record in the NL and third-best in all of baseball. They have a commanding four-game lead over the Cubs for the first Wild Card slot in the National League.
“We’re playing really well right now and it’s a situation where everyone is contributing, one through 25 on the roster,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said to the Associated Press after last night’s win.
The surging squad will have a hard time making it four straight tonight, though, as the Giants will send ace Madison Bumgarner (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to the mound. Last year’s World Series MVP is looking for his 15th win of the season and fourth straight.
Bumgarner has pitched two straight complete games, allowing just three hits and fanning 14 in a 5-0 shutout over the Nationals last time out.
Bumgarner, who started the year somewhat slowly, has obviously been happier with his recent starts. “You can always do better,” Bumgarner said to the AP after his last start. “But this would be tough to beat … the way things are going for me.”
Pittsburgh will counter “MadBum” with left-hander Jeff Locke (6-7, 4.31 ERA); Locke is 0-1 in his last three starts, and went 5.1 innings of four-hit, one-run ball against the Mets in his last start, earning a no-decision.
The Pirates have been tremendous at home this season (42-19) and the Giants are two games under .500 on the road, but betting against Bumgarner – who looks like the best pitcher in the MLB at the moment – isn’t advisable.
Pick: Giants (-120).
(Photo credit: X Wad [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)