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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 7:00 AM

That’s right the Pittsburgh Pirates emerged midweek with one of the three best records in all of Major League Baseball. In fact, the top three were all from the same division…with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds also waving the flag for the NL Central.

Is that division really heads and shoulders above the field? Well, St. Louis and Cincinnati are surely legitimate. Pittsburgh often starts fast before fading. They’ve played similar schedules…which have helped pad the record in a league that’s had a few disappointments. The fact that the Reds and Pirates have only played three games against each other hasn’t hurt. You can only play the Cubs and Brewers for so long!

This three-game set in Steel City should give handicappers and sports bettors a better sense of where these teams really stand. Let’s take a look at the projected pitching matchups.



Cincinnati… Cueto: 2-0, 2.76 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

Pittsburgh…Rodriguez: 6-2, 3.68 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Cueto missed a month of action with an injury. He’s been effective since his return. But, that was against the Cubs and Mets…which isn’t exactly the toughest of challenges this year. He got a high number of ground ball out vs. the Cubs…which isn’t his normal style. The Reds really need the best of Cueto down the stretch in their competitive divisional and Wildcard races.

Wandy hasn’t been overpowering by any means. But, he’s throwing quality starts and getting good run support. That’s led the Pirates to an 8-2 record in the games he’s started. You’re not a great team if Wandy Rodriguez is your first or second best pitcher. If he’s at the back of the rotation munching innings with an ERA below 4.00…then you’ve got something to work with.

The numbers show an edge to Cueto…but he may not really be back in form yet. The Pirates will provide a good test for evaluating where he actually stand at the moment.



Cincinnati …Leake: 4-2, 3.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Pittsburgh … Liriano: 3-1, 2.35 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Note that Saturday’s meeting will be regionally televised by FOX in prime time.

Reds Manager Dusty Baker’s results with starting pitchers is mixed. He has a way of finding guys like Leake…letting them know he believes in them…then getting more than anyone expected from them. On the other hand, he’ll run a workhorse into the ground without concern for the future. Right now, Leake providing much more than expected.

Liriano is potentially a great story. He could be a real STEAL for the Bucs if he can find his best form of the past. The Pirates suddenly become FOR REAL if he can be counted on to produce every fifth day. The problem with the numbers you see above is that they represent three starts vs. bad teams and one start vs. a good team (Detroit). He didn’t shine against the Tigers. A huge game for mapping out Pittsburgh’s real hopes this year in our view. If Liriano beats the Reds, this is a legit Wildcard contender at the very worst.



Cincinnati … Latos: 5-0, 3.01 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Pittsburgh …Gomez: 2-0, 2.30 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Hey, any starting pitcher who’s undefeated this deep into the season is doing something right. Here we have two undefeated pitchers!

Latos has been bailed out a couple of times by great offense. The Reds are 8-2 in his starts overall…and he’s definitely backing up the impressive ERA and WHIP with his other peripherals. A solid contributor to a solid rotation.

Gomez has only made six starts, some of that statline is polluted by good early relief. He’s been much better than expected as a starter…but has mostly gone 5 innings or less. That’s not acceptable because it puts too big a burden on middle relief. But…his last outing was 7 shutout innings vs. the Tigers, which made everyone stand up and take notice. If Gomez does anything like THAT for an extended period, the Pirates can suddenly match the starting rotations of their other divisional competitors.

Latos will get some thought in this spot from JIM HURLEY on the assumption that Gomez will fall back to earth after what was likely a “way over his head” performance against the Tigers.

This series could easily show up more than once in the NETWORK slate this weekend. But, it’s A LOADED SCHEDULE that will offer up big plays and marquee matchups all over the board. Also on the card this weekend:

Boston at the New York Yankees

Detroit at Baltimore

Washington at Atlanta

San Francisco at St. Louis

We’re currently planning a Sunday preview of Red Sox/Yankees here in the NOTEBOOK since that’s the Sunday Night game on ESPN.

You can purchase game day baseball (and championship basketball) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or basketball, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back Saturday to study Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals in the NBA. Will the series come to an end in Indiana? Or, are we destined for a Game Seven thriller?

Don’t make a move in the weekend’s biggest games until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

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