The Pittsburgh Pirates continued their impressive start to the season, picking up their fourth straight win last night in game one of the series. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over why I’ll be targeting a bet on the total in this one.
Not a lot of high expectations were set for the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into this year, and although it is a long season, there is no denying what the Pirates have done so far has been impressive. After last night’s win over the Reds, the Pirates are now 9th in the league in batting average, 7th in runs per game, and on the mound, they are 12th in ERA after Roansy Contreras’ dominant start last night.
Tonight the Pirates will turn to another young arm with strong stuff in Mitch Keller to get the start. In four starts this season, Keller is 1-0 and has thrown 23.7 innings to a 3.80 ERA. The young righthander has already racked up 25 strikeouts and will get the chance to avenge his first start of the year in which the Reds knocked him out of the game after 4 ⅔ innings after drawing four walks and scoring four runs.
Despite their loss last night, the Reds' offense was able to score three runs, which may not seem notable, but they had been held scoreless for the previous 18 innings leading up to the game. Cincinnati is now 18th in batting average and 21st in OPS heading into tonight, but the good news for them is their best starter up to this point in the season will be on the mound.
Young right-hander Graham Ashcraft will take the ball for Cincinnati for his fourth start of the year. In 19 innings of work, Ashcraft is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 17 strikeouts. This will already be Ashcraft’s second start against the Pirates this season, as he went seven innings while allowing one earned run and striking out six back on April 2nd.
The total for this game is currently set at 8.5 runs, and I’ll be taking the under as my play in this one. Both starters tonight have top-notch stuff, and in the last six meetings between these two teams, the under has gone 5-1. Additionally, the under is 4-1 in the last five games the Pirates have faced a right-handed starter.
Graham Ashcraft is currently in the 62nd percentile in barrel percentage and 60th percentile in average exit velocity. The right-hander throws his cutter the most out of any pitch in his arsenal at 42.3%, and for a good reason, as opposing hitters have hit .185 against it this season. Additionally, Ashcraft has a groundball percentage of 60.8% which is well above the league average and a pleasant sight for under bettors.
Conversely, Mitch Keller is in the 94th percentile in hard hit percentage and 90th percentile in average exit velocity. Keller primarily relies on his cutter and four-seam fastball, as he has racked up 18 strikeouts off those two pitches already, and opponents have a .167 and .192 batting average off them. Keller is also slightly above league average in ground ball percentage at 47%.