After a few days off, the MLB is back in action with plenty of teams looking to build off their first halves and others trying to avoid being sellers at the deadline. One of the series that is set to ring in the second half of the season will feature the San Francisco Giants in Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates, and we’ll preview the game before going over my play for the first five innings.
For the San Francisco Giants, coming out of the All-Star break strong is imperative as they are in the midst of a tough divisional battle, and they have quite a few teams behind them in the Wild Card that could fight their way into the conversation. The Giants finished 49-41 in the first half and sit 2.5 games back in the NL West while maintaining control of the third Wild Card spot.
Entering the break, the Giants lost three of their last four series but were able to win their last two games of the first half. Getting the start for them tonight on the mound will be veteran right-hander Ross Stripling, who will be looking to turn things around in the second half. In 41 innings, Stripling has pitched to a 6.37 ERA, and his 12 outings have been a mix of seven starts and five relief appearances.
Stripling and the Giants will take on a Pirates team that stumbled into the break, going 3-7 in their last ten games. Pittsburgh is 8.5 games back in the NL Central division, and a big reason for that is their run differential of -46. With an average of 4.21 runs per game, which ranks 22nd in the league, and their pitching staff struggling before the break, Pittsburgh must improve on both ends to make a run at the Wild Card.
The Pirates' pitching staff allowed five or more runs in eight of the team's final ten games heading into the break. As they look to get off on the right note, the team will send lefty Rich Hill to the mound for his 19th start of the season. The veteran enters tonight with a 4.78 ERA in 98 innings of work to go along with 91 strikeouts and 39 walks.
The total for the first five innings is currently set at 4.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. Neither starter comes into this game with strong numbers, and their expected numbers look even worse. Both teams will also come into tonight well-rested and with ideal hitting conditions, as it will be 83 degrees and sunny with the wind blowing out.
Those hitting conditions don’t bode well for either pitcher, especially Rich Hill, who enters tonight with a 4.47 FIP at home. It also doesn’t help that the lefty is in the 10th percentile in expected batting average, expected slugging, and xERA/xwOBA. With an xERA of 5.64 and his most thrown pitch warranting a batting average of .275, I couldn’t think of a more ideal matchup for a Giants offense that ranks 12th in wRC+ against lefties on the road over the past month.
Pittsburgh’s offense also has a favorable matchup tonight since Ross Stripling is in the 12th percentile in expected batting average, 8th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, and has 5.56 FIP on the road this season. With an ERA of 5.63 or higher in four of the first five innings, both teams have the chance to tack on the runs early in this one.
F5 Over 4.5