Friday night's MLB face-off between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles is shaping up to be a run-fest, with both teams eager to make a statement after recent stumbles. Despite the Pirates' recent skid, dropping nine of their last 10 games, and the Orioles' roller-coaster performances against division leaders, this matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair. The Total is set at 9 Over -105 or 9 Under -115.
The Pirates and Orioles have a history of high-scoring games, with two straight contests reaching nine runs and seven out of their last nine meetings going over. With both pitchers, Johan Oviedo (5.60 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) and Kyle Bradish (5.95 ERA, 1.73 WHIP), struggling to keep batters at bay this season, along with warm temperatures (low 80s), I would expect plenty of runs. Don't forget, Oriole Park at Camden Yards ranks No. 7 in park factor runs scored.
Pittsburgh's recent woes can be attributed to both their hitting and pitching. Their once-effective aggressive base running has been stymied, with the team caught stealing six times during their latest 1-5 homestand. The Pirates also seem to be pressing, as their once potent offense has only scored more than two runs in one of their last 10 games. However, the talent is there, as evidenced by Andrew McCutchen's standout performance on Wednesday, going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer. If the Pirates can shake off their current slump, there's no reason they can't light up the scoreboard against the Orioles.
On the mound, Pirates' right-hander Johan Oviedo (2-3, 5.59 ERA) has been struggling as of late, going 0-2 with a 12.08 ERA in his past three starts. He's allowed 17 earned runs in just 12 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking seven. Oviedo's performance in his last outing against the Toronto Blue Jays was less than stellar, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits in five innings. Facing the Orioles for the first time in his career, Oviedo will need to step up his game if he wants to keep Baltimore's bats in check.
The Orioles, on the other hand, are coming off a hard-fought series against the Tampa Bay Rays, where their pitching staff managed to hold the Rays to just six runs across three games. Baltimore's bullpen has been particularly impressive, giving up only two runs in 9 1/3 innings. However, they'll be relying on right-hander Kyle Bradish to start against the Pirates, and his stats don't inspire much confidence. In his last start against the Atlanta Braves, Bradish allowed three runs on five hits over five innings.
Given the recent struggles of both starting pitchers, along with the history of high-scoring games between these two teams and the warmer weather, it's no surprise that Over 9 runs (-105) is my free pick on Friday Night.
Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline