July 16 MLB Preview — Pittsburgh Pirates (44-49) at St. Louis Cardinals (47-45)

(Josh Bell photo courtesy Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Tuesday, July 16, Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo., 8:15 p.m. EDT.

Having proved himself worthy of a place in the rotation with victories in his last two spot starts, Dario Agrazal looks to further his success as Pittsburgh’s No. 5 starter Tuesday night when the Pirates continue their four-game series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

Agrazal seeks third straight winning start

It has been a story of persistence for Agrazal (2-0, 2.81), who battled injuries in the minors and was designated for assignment in January. He was then outrighted to the minors when no one claimed him off waivers.

The right-hander stayed healthy and pitched effectively enough at both Altoona and Indianapolis to warrant three call-ups starting in the middle of June.

Agrazal recorded wins in the last two, and his six-inning effort versus Milwaukee on July 6 in which he allowed little beyond a pair of solo homers in a 12-2 Pirates romp was enough to convince manager Clint Hurdle to insert the 24-year-old into the back end of the rotation at least under Steven Brault comes off the injured list.

“That’s al­ways how I’ve been,” Agrazal said through team trans­la­tor Mike Gon­za­lez when asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his aggressiveness. “My men­tal­ity has al­ways been at­tack mode. I don’t like to put my­self in any sit­u­a­tion where I’m think­ing too much.”

Agrazal has split his two road starts this year, losing his major league debut June 15 at Miami and bouncing back with a victory at Houston 11 days later. The Pirates have backed the righty with 15 runs in his two victories.

Flaherty hopes for fresh start coming out of All-Star break

Jack Flaherty (4-6, 4.64) has gone nine starts without a victory, but it was only shortly before the All-Star break that the losses began adding up. The right-hander went 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in his last four outings, though the Cardinals have not contributed much offensively with only four runs of support in those games.

Flaherty was a tough-luck loser last time out, with a seventh-inning solo homer by Evan Longoria not only ending his no-hit bid but providing the difference in St. Louis’ 1-0 road defeat July 7.

“I needed to get myself together,” Flaherty told the club’s official website after allowing two hits in seven innings while striking out six. “Coming out and being on the attack more. Taking these adjustments from the whole first half and trying to put it all in one game. It’s more of a mentality kind of thing of where I’ve been at. And today was the best I’ve felt in regards to that.”

The righty’s spot did not come up in the previous two series between the teams this year, and all five of the third-year pitcher’s starts against Pittsburgh came last year. Flaherty went 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in those outings, including 1-0 mark and 3.00 ERA in two starts at Busch Stadium.

All-Star Josh Bell has been troublesome to Flaherty, going 3 for 9 with a homer and two doubles in their matchups.

Notable Trends:

The Cardinals are:

  • 4-0 in Flaherty’s last four starts vs. the Pirates.
  • 5-1 in their last six games vs. right-handed starters.
  • 15-7 in their last 22 games vs. the Pirates.

The Pirates are:

  • 1-6 in their last seven Tuesday games.
  • 0-6 in their last six road games.
  • 3-8 in their last 11 games after scoring two or fewer runs in the previous game.

5-Star Pick!!!!!

UNDER 5 runs (-110)

A confidence pick in Flaherty while also with the expectation Agrazal will battle to keep this game close after two solid starts to build confidence. In both of his last two starts, the Pirates rookie has settled down quickly after yielding a first-inning run.

The five-inning under is also 6-2-1 in Flaherty’s last nine starts.

4-Star Pick!!!!

Pirates UNDER 3.5 runs (-110)

This is a confidence pick in Flaherty and a confluence of trends. The Cardinals’ rotation has come out of the All-Star break hot, with its starts currently on a run of 16 shutout innings after Mikolas’ eight-hitter Monday night, and a 0.94 ERA in the first four games.

Pittsburgh has also struggled offensively coming out of the chute, totaling 10 runs in the four games. The Pirates are also batting .214 against righties in that stretch and have gone 3 for 21 with runners in scoring position. Flaherty has a strong enough track record at home save his one bad outing to believe he will help the Cardinals get the job done here.

3-Star Picks!!!

Cardinals -1.5 runs (+111)

The hedge is that Flaherty found something in his last outing before the All-Star break and will be able to reverse some of the home woes that were plaguing him. Flaherty had a 2.49 ERA in his first eight home starts before being knocked around by Oakland in a June 25 loss.

Agrazal has pitched well, but there is still an unknown quality in how he will fare pitching in a tighter contest — he was lifted after four innings in his major league debut with the score tied at 3. That helps tilt the pick in St. Louis’ favor.

UNDER 9 runs (-110)

Flaherty helped deliver the under in all five starts against the Pirates last year, and the Cardinals came out of the break extending their run in the under to four games with Monday night’s 7-0 romp.

The under has also been trending overall in this series in St. Louis, hitting on 12 of the last 17 games played at Busch Stadium. Specifically to Pittsburgh, the under has hit in five straight games versus right-handed starts and gone 5-2 in its last seven road games.

Cardinals -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-131)

Though the Cardinals have not led after five innings in any of Flaherty’s last six starts (0-4-2), the belief is that pitching — like hitting — is contagious, and the right-hander will be able to keep Pittsburgh’s bats quiet. Flaherty also held Pittsburgh to one or no runs in four of his five starts versus the Pirates last year.

Cardinals 3-way money line first inning (+235)

With the Cardinals plating an opening-inning run in their last three games coupled with Agrazal’s early jitters in his last two starts, this is a medium-risk, high-reward pick. St. Louis has averaged .52 runs in the first inning, and the Pirates have a 5.71 ERA in the first while giving up 63 runs in 93 games. The Pirates also have failed to score in the first inning of their four games coming out of the All-Star break.

 

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