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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 7:00 PM

The National League pennant races are tight indeed as we enter the first full week of action after the 2014 All-Star Break. There’s no margin for error for any of the contenders right now…which creates a lot of drama when contenders play each other!

That’s the backdrop for the Dodgers/Pirates series that begins Monday Night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are in that four-team logjam in the NL Central where any team could get hot and win the division…and perhaps THREE of the four teams could make the playoffs depending on what happens in the Wildcard race. The Dodgers are neck-and-neck with the San Francisco Giants over in the NL West, and had the misfortune of drawing road series against St. Louis and Pittsburgh right out of the second half gate.

So, LA/Pittsburgh is our showcase series for a Monday preview. Let’s run the numbers!



LA Dodgers: 4.12 runs per game, .327 on-base, .395 slugging

Pittsburgh: 4.10 runs per game, .332 on-base, .388 slugging

Both teams play their home games in pitcher’s parks. But, Dodger Stadium is usually a bit more penalizing for offensive stats…which seems to be the case this season. Los Angeles is averaging almost 4.5 runs per game on the road, and does have a truly elite offense. Pittsburgh is probably better than you think…and their bats need to be respected in the second half of the season based on statistical indicators. Edge here to the Dodgers once you park-adjust the data.



Hyun-Jin Ryu: 3.44 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.0 K-Rate

Edinson Volquez: 3.65 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 5.9 K-Rate

Eight of Ryu’s last 10 outings have been quality starts. But, he did get hit hard in Detroit…and in Cincinnati for the two non-success stories. Does he hate pitching in the Midwest?! He is easier to hit outside of Chavez Ravine, which gives the Pirates a chance to produce. Volquez has knocked a run of his ERA over the last month. The fact that he’s no longer a nightly disaster tells you just how smart the Pirates are when it comes to working with pitchers. They saved Edinson Volquez’s career! Edge to Ryu…but Volquez is no longer an auto-fade.



Josh Beckett: 2.26 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate

Vance Worley: 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.7 K-Rate

Beckett is scheduled to come off the Disabled List to pitch this game. If management decides to hold back, you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Josh is having a terrific season, but may not pitch to those numbers given his rustiness and recent injury. Worley is the latest semi-success story for the Pirates. He’s only made five starts…but he’s holding his own in a “year of the pitcher” that’s suddenly found so many offenses helpless when facing guys who used to struggle badly. Could you have imagined in March that the Pirates would be pitching Volquez and Worley in back-to-back games in a series that mattered?!



Dan Haren: 4.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.6 K-Rate

Francisco Liriano: 4.43 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.8 K-Rate

Haren kind of turned back into a pumpkin about a month ago, and has been struggling badly in four of five recent outings. Having a 4.30 ERA in a year of the pitcher when playing home games at Dodgers Stadium is a relative disaster. He seems particularly vulnerable in a road series finale against a team that’s been playing well. That same scenario is playing out for Liriano, who’s control has completely left him in recent outings. He’s now lucky to go past five innings because of high pitch counts. Consider the Over. And, if either team dropped the first two games, look for them to avoid the sweep against a vulnerable opposing starter.

Great news for the Pirates that they miss both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in this series. But, you still have to be generally skeptical about the Pirates rotation given the names and longterm histories involved. Fascinating series for fans and handicappers!

As of press time, we can’t be certain if JIM HURLEY will have any releases in this series. Game day BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card for those ready to ride down the road to riches through the rest of baseball. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office 1-888-777-4155.

Another baseball series preview tomorrow before returning to our summer series of college football conference previews. Here’s the coming schedule…

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Tampa Bay at St. Louis

Wednesday: College Football…Pac 12 “North” Preview

Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview

Friday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at San Francisco

Saturday: College Football…Big 12 Preview

Sunday: College Football…American Athletic Conference Preview

Looks like we’ll be talking about Kershaw and Greinke in a few days in that huge NL West showdown! Get great handicapping information every day here in the NOTEBOOK, then hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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