Dodgers vs. Pirates Odds
|Time||Thursday, 12:35 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via PointsBet|
Two struggling offenses close a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon when the Dodgers and Pirates face off at PNC Park.
The difference in the two lineups is an obvious gulf of talent, and while the Pirates are set to start a potentially promising young right-hander, Los Angeles has a stellar southpaw taking the mound.
The Dodgers are heavy favorites to close the series with a win, as they usually are, so let’s try to find some betting value here.
Urías Continues To Improve For Dodgers
It seems like Julio Urías has been around for the past decade, likely because he has been pitching high-leverage playoff innings since he was 19 years old back in 2016. Because of his age, the Dodgers have brought him along very cautiously. It was just last season that Urías finally became a full-time member of the starting rotation.
Urías delivered a very strong 3.27 ERA last year, although his 5.06 xFIP indicates he was slightly fortunate. His 2020 campaign will be remembered for a stellar 1.17 ERA through 23 postseason innings, though.
In 2021, Urías has built on that success from last year. He’s averaging slightly over six innings per start, which is an excellent sign, and he has a 3.48 ERA and 3.27 xFIP through 12 starts.
Urías thrives by throwing either his fastball or curveball 83.6% of the time. That curveball is giving up a 2.09 slugging percentage and .267 xSLG this season. Urías’ fastball has been hit hard this season, with a .331 batting average against and .313 xBA. He mixes in a changeup that he throws 15.6% of the time that, like his curveball, is nearly unhittable.
As if Urías pitching this well isn’t a good sign, the Pirates have the second-lowest OPS this season against left-handed pitching. There’s no reason the Dodgers’ southpaw shouldn’t thrive on Thursday afternoon.
Offensively, the Dodgers entered Wednesday night’s game scuffling at the plate. Over the previous two weeks, they ranked 20th in OPS at just .682. Los Angeles did get Cody Bellinger back during that stretch, but Justin Turner (.720 OPS over the last two weeks) and Mookie (Betts) have been short of their usual form, while Max Muncy has been in and out of the lineup due to an ankle injury.
The only players who could be considered regulars for the Dodgers with an OPS over .820 during that stretch are Albert Pujols and Matt Beaty, both of whom are platoon players.
Jury Still Out On Pirates’ Keller
Back in 2019, Mitch Keller was one of the best right-handed-pitching prospects in baseball. He struggled through his first 11 big-league starts that season, as many young pitchers do, and bounced back well in five starts in 2020. Keller had a 2.91 ERA, but there was a huge difference in his xFIP, which was 6.57. In 2019, though, Keller’s 7.13 ERA didn’t match his 3.47 xFIP.
So 2021 could have gone either way for Keller, and it hasn’t been great so far. Through 11 starts, Keller has a 6.65 ERA, although his 4.83 xFIP indicates he’s only been well below average and not absolutely terrible.
Keller is only averaging just over four innings per start in 2021, although the Pirates have a bunch of relievers with plus stuff that have them ranked 11th in bullpen ERA, just above the Dodgers.
Keller throws his four-seamer 57.7% of the time and is allowing a .263 xBA and .446 xSLG, which aren’t great. His off-speed stuff, though, is getting hit hard. His slider, curveball and changeup are all giving up slugging percentages over .500.
Offensively, the Pirates got a big boost late last week with the return of Ke’Bryan Hayes, who entered Wednesday night’s game with a 1.028 OPS in his five games since coming back from the injured list. Bryan Reynolds (five home runs, 1.070 OPS over the past two weeks) has also rebounded from a down year in 2020, while Adam Frazier provides a decent spark a the top of the Pirates’ order.
That’s it, though. Colin Moran just returned from the injured list and should provide a lift in the middle of the Bucs’ lineup, but the Nos. 5-8 spots in the lineup are basically automatic outs, aside from Ka’ai Tom when he starts. The problem with Tom: His OPS (.354) is higher than his slugging percentage (.305) on the season.
In Tuesday’s series opener, the Pirates’ lineup was sufficiently shut down by Walker Buehler. Pittsburgh got on the board by scoring against relievers Joe Kelly and Nate Jones to make it a 5-3 scoreline that really flattered them.
The safest play here is to focus on the Pirates’ lineup, which has been awful against left-handed pitching this year. Granted, most of that terrible play has come without Hayes, but he cannot make up for the incredible lack of depth at the bottom of the order.
The Pirates’ team total here is 3.5. I do not see them getting over that not just because of their struggles against left-handed pitching, but mostly because of how good Urías has been in 2021.
Pick: Pirates Under 3.5 runs (-125)