The Pirates and Braves finish their series at PNC Park with a Thursday afternoon matchup, and Atlanta is looking to start building momentum again with Bryce Elder on the mound. Elder is coming off of a rough start against the Cubs, and the Braves’ staff as a whole is going through a rough stretch. Nonetheless, Atlanta is a clear favorite at -210 on the moneyline.
Let’s make predictions for Thursday’s matchup and break down why the Braves run line is an attractive option.
Braves vs. Pirates Prediction
The Braves should be able to win this one, making their moneyline (-210) a fine pick, but their pitching has had such a hard time with the Pirates’ offense that I’m not sure it’s worth it at that value. Bryce Elder’s unsteadiness, including control issues, means the line on Braves -1.5 (-134) is too much of a risk for such little value.
What we could see plenty of on this Thursday afternoon are runs. The Braves hit more home runs than any team, and Bailey Falter’s track record indicates there’s a good chance he’ll give some up.
With Elder coming off a rough start and potentially heading for more regression, according to his high FIP, the Pirates could be in line for more offensive success. Pittsburgh is already averaging six runs per game in this series, and two of those games have been losses – that’ll tell you how much the Braves score runs. Over 9.5 runs is the pick.
Braves vs. Pirates Prediction: Over 9.5 Runs (-112)
Braves vs. Pirates Odds
The Braves enter as decisive road favorites at -210 on the moneyline. The over/under is 9.5 runs.
Elder’s recent bumps aren’t enough to prevent the Braves from being clear favorites, especially given pitching uncertainty for the Pirates. Is Pittsburgh’s offensive success against the Braves going to continue for one final game?
Braves vs. Pirates Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Braves vs. Pirates.
Pirates Lineup vs. Bryce Elder Control Issues
Bryce Elder’s FIP has long indicated he would come back to earth after a scorching hot start to the season, and you could say that’s what happened when he was shelled for seven runs by the Cubs in his last outing.
Most concerning for Elder are his recent control issues. Elder walked three Cubs in his last start and has issued 3+ walks in three of his last seven starts. Is that something the Pirates can take advantage of?
One of their on-base heroes, Carlos Santana, is gone, but this is a Pittsburgh team that does rank sixth in the league in walks per game. Andrew McCutchen and Jack Suwinski are two hitters who tend to get on base often even when their bats aren’t hot. With the way the Pirates have been hitting in this series, Elder is going to want to avoid giving out free passes and putting traffic on the basepaths.
Matt Olson vs. Pirates Pitching
The Braves can hit home runs better than any team in the league, and their power spans the entire lineup. It’s become clear, though, that Matt Olson is in a class of his own when it comes to homers. Olson has 39 home runs on the season, including 10 since the all-star break, and he’s already hit the 100-RBI mark.
With Olson blasting baseballs right now, he’s the biggest threat to Pirates starter Bailey Falter. The former Phillie had a very troubling 1.7 HR/9 rate last season, and he had a 1.4 HR/9 rate earlier this season before being sent down.
Falter allowed 1 ER and 6 hits in 4 IP in his first start with the Pirates, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll actually get to face Olson more than two times on Thursday. Pittsburgh’s shaky bullpen could get involved early, and Olson is a threat to that group as well.
Braves vs. Pirates Starting Lineups
Braves Starting Lineup
RF Ronald Acuna Jr. R
2B Ozzie Albies S
3B Austin Riley R
1B Matt Olson L
C Sean Murphy R
DH Marcell Ozuna R
LF Eddie Rosario L
SS Orlando Arcia R
CF Michael Harris II L
Pirates Starting Lineup
1B Alfonso Rivas L
LF Bryan Reynolds R
DH Andrew McCutchen R
RF Henry Davis R
CF Jack Suwinski L
3B Ke’Bryan Hayes R
C Endy Rodriguez S
2B Liover Peguero R
SS Alika Williams R