Aug. 28 MLB Preview — Pittsburgh Pirates (56-76) at Philadelphia Phillies (68-63)

(Bryan Reynolds 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: Wednesday, Aug. 28, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pa., 6:05 p.m. EDT.

The Philadelphia Phillies need Vince Velasquez to get back on track, and he will try to oblige them Wednesday night when they wrap up a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Keller tries to build on positive outing for Bucs

Rookie Mitch Keller (1-2, 7.24 ERA) has pitched better recently after an inauspicious major league debut that featured a pair of six-run efforts in his first two starts. The 23-year-old had his best outing to date Friday against Cincinnati, yielding a solo homer while striking out a season-high nine over six innings of Pittsburgh’s eventual 3-2 walkoff victory.

The right-hander also picked up an award before this start, getting named International League pitcher of the year Tuesday after going 7-5 with a 3.56 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 103 2-3 innings with Indianapolis. He is the second Pirates pitcher to win the award in the last three seasons, joining 2017 winner Steven Brault.

“It’s really cool. Hopefully I’ll get that award up here someday,” Keller told the Pirates official website. “It’s cool just to be recognized for all the hard work and everything I’ve done to get myself here. It’s awesome.”

Keller’s lone major league win came on the road against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 12, and he is 1-1 with a 9.75 ERA in three starts outside Pittsburgh. Opponents hit .339 against him through the first six starts, though only 13 of the 39 hits have gone for extra bases.

This will be his first appearance against the Phillies.

Velasquez tries to bounce back from worst start of season

Velasquez (5-7, 4.93) has struggled to put together solid back-to-back outings for most of the season as a starter, something that continued Friday in Miami. Despite being staked to a seven-run lead in the third inning, the right-hander gave it all back while being chased in the bottom of the inning and left without a decision in Philadelphia’s 19-11 defeat.

“I take full responsibility for the outcome of the game,” Velasquez told NBCSports Philadelphia. “As a pitcher you want that run support. What more do you want than a 7-zero lead and you end up giving it up.

“I feel pretty embarrassed and disappointed.”

Velasquez is in the rotation partly because manager Gabe Kapler has no good options to turn to since losing Jake Arrieta for the season with a bone spur in his elbow. Velasquez has lasted beyond the fifth just twice in his last seven starts yet has gone 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in that stretch because Philadelphia’s offense has backed him with 7.46 runs of support per game.

The righty has never faced Pittsburgh at home and is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA in two career starts, with the most recent one coming in 2017.

Notable Trends

The Phillies are:

  • 8-3 in Velasquez’s last 11 home starts.
  • 6-2 in Velasquez’s last eight home starts vs. sub-.500 teams.
  • 40-17 in their last 57 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.

The Pirates are:

  • 3-13 in their last 16 during game 3 of a series.
  • 0-6 in their last six Wednesday games.
  • 7-20 in their last 27 road games vs. right-handed starters.

*****5-Star Pick*****

OVER 5.5 runs first 5 innings (-121)

This is equal parts about not trusting Velasquez while also being confident Keller cannot string together back-to-back quality performances. The five-inning over is 5-1 in the Pittsburgh rookie’s six starts, only hitting in the last outing. The over has split Velazquez’s seven starts since the All-Star break (3-3-1), including a 1-1-1 mark in the three at home.

****4-Star Pick****

OVER 10 runs (-105)

The over had a five-game run with the Pirates end Tuesday night, but has delivered consistently on Wednesdays — going 17-4 in the last 21 such games and 22-6 in the last 28 during game 3 of a series.

The over is also 8-3 in Velasquez’s last 11 starts against NL Central teams and 4-1 in Philadelphia’s last five home games against right-handed starters.

***3-Star Picks***

Phillies ML (-136)

Velasquez’s form makes it difficult to take the Phillies beyond the money line, especially after his last outing. Philadelphia continues to fly by the seat of its pants thanks to its sub-standard rotation beyond Aaron Nola, but in this instance, it still edges out the Pirates and their rookie despite Keller’s nice start last time out.

Pirates OVER 4.5 runs (Even)

Considering how the second half of the season has gone for the Pirates, this has been one of their best offensive stretches in that span with 34 runs in their last four games while scoring five or more runs in each of them. Pittsburgh has also scored five or more runs in five of its last six road games, and with Velazquez coming off a poor outing, getting the Pirates at even money to continue their streak is a good play.

Phillies -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-110) 

This is trusting a pair of contrasting pitchers’ forms as the Phillies are 4-1-1 at the midway point in Velasquez’s last six home starts, and the Pirates are 1-5 in Keller’s six outings since being promoted.

The Pirates are also 2-8-1 at the midway point in their last 11 games, while the Phillies — who have had slender one-run leads in the first two games of this series — are 5-1-1 in the last seven.

Phillies OVER 2.5 runs (-131)

A confidence pick in Philadelphia’s offense, which has plated three or more runs in the first five innings in 11 of its last 16 games after getting three in Tuesday night’s loss. Keller and the Pirates have yielded three or more runs over the first five innings in four of his six starts.

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