The Pirates and Angels don’t look like they’ll be qualifying for the playoffs this season. The Pirates have gone into the tank since the All-Star break, while the Angels have endured a tailspin following a decent stretch to begin the season’s second half. The Pirates enter play on Monday 21 games under the .500 mark and sitting alone in last place in the NL Central. The Angels, meanwhile, have dropped to three games under .500, which is good for fourth in the AL West.
Interestingly enough, the Pirates are actually closer to first in their division than the Angels are in theirs, despite LA having a far better record. Pittsburgh has dropped to 13.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the NL, while the Angels are 11 back in the AL. Frankly, it would take a legitimate miracle for either team to make a postseason appearance in 2019.
If you’ve done any betting on the Pirates lately, you’ll know they’ve been in atrocious form. Pittsburgh has lost each of their last eight games entering Monday’s game, and they’ve won just two of their last 20 overall. Even the worst teams in baseball rarely lose 18 of 20 games, but the Pirates have managed to accomplish the dubious feat.
Regardless, they still have to play the games. The Bucs will head to Orange County to begin a three-game interleague series against the Halos on Monday night. Rookie Mitch Keller will take the ball for Pittsburgh against Angels left-hander Jose Suarez.
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While the Pirates may be mired in another lost season, they can still use the final month-and-a-half to see what they have in Mitch Keller. Keller is the top-rated prospect in the Pirates’ system, and he’s one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. The 23-year-old made three starts for the Buccos earlier this season, but this will be his first outing in the big leagues since June 18.
Keller looked like a rookie during his first stint with the team. The right-hander went 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA through those three outings against the Reds, Braves, and Tigers. He did show some signs, though. Keller had a 24.6% strikeout rate through those three starts, which is a good sign moving forward. His walk rate of 9.8% was too high, but that’s something young pitchers tend to figure out with more experience at the big-league level.
He’s been victimized by a freakishly high .513 BABIP allowed to this point, and once that comes down to a more reasonable level, he’ll be just fine. Keller has only surrendered one home run through those three games and, tonight, he’ll face a tough Angels lineup. LA is a bit weakened right now with the likes of Andrelton Simmons on the injured list, but Keller is still going to have to navigate a lineup of proven hitters that includes Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani, and Kole Calhoun.
While I’m bullish on Keller’s chances of eventually becoming the ace of the Pirates’ staff, he’s clearly not there yet. The Angels’ projected lineup has a 21.6% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season alongside a well above-average team ISO of .222.
Suarez’ Inconsistent Start
Suarez isn’t as highly-rated a prospect as Keller is, but he’s still among the best prospects in the Halos’ farm system. The southpaw has made 10 starts for the big club on the year, and he’s 2-3 with a 6.22 ERA to this point. His last couple of starts have been rough, as he’s allowed a total of 10 runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings of work across games against the Tigers and Reds.
However, his 4.88 SIERA shows that his 6.22 ERA is a bit unlucky. A 4.88 SIERA is nothing to write home about, but there have been some positives to this point. His 21.9% K-rate is passable and, at tonight’s Pirates vs Angels game, he’s facing a terrible Pirates lineup that seems to have raised the white flag already. The Bucs have been particularly atrocious against left-handed pitching. Pittsburgh’s projected lineup has a low 18.2% strikeout rate against lefties, but they have a painfully low team ISO of just .153.
Really, as long as Suarez can get through Josh Bell and Starling Marte without giving up too much damage, he should be in a fine enough spot. Control issues have plagued him at times early in his career, but the Pirates have looked utterly hopeless against left-handed pitching for a while now.
The Angels haven’t played all that well as of late, but they did take each of their last two games over the weekend in Boston. They blew the Red Sox out on Saturday before notching an extra-innings victory in the finale Sunday afternoon. They should be coming home with some confidence as a result, which is something that can’t be said about a Pirates team that hasn’t won a series since before the All-Star break. Pittsburgh is riding a lengthy skid, and I expect the streak to continue.
I like this spot for the Angels tonight. Keller isn’t an ace yet, and I expect them to give him some trouble as a result. There’s not a ton of value in taking the Halos at -160 on the moneyline, but I do like the value in betting on LA to cover the runline at +125.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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