Pittsburgh Pirates (57-58 SU, 59-56 RL, 47-62-6 O/U) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (54-60 SU, 50-64 RL, 55-53-6 O/U)
MLB: Saturday, August 12, 2017, Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, 1:07 pm ET
Lines: Toronto -115, Pittsburgh +105; Over/Under: 9.5
It’s the middle game of an interleague set north of the border. The Pittsburgh Pirates play the second game of a three game set against the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday afternoon. Pittsburgh won three of four in their four game, two city interleague set with the Tigers after taking a 7-5 win in the finale Thursday. Toronto took two of three at home from the Yankees, claiming a 4-0 victory in the rubber game of the series Thursday. The pitching matchup for Friday’s series opener saw Jameson Taillon pitch for the Pirates against Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. First pitch in the game was set for 7:07 pm ET.
Pittsburgh Pirates Looking to Close Gap in NL Central
Pittsburgh finally got a little momentum in this stretch of games against sub-.500 teams as they took three of four from the Tigers. The Pirates entered Friday three games behind the Cubs in the crowded NL Central race. Adam Frazier (run, two RBI) had three hits to lead Pittsburgh in the victory. Josh Bell (his 20th) and Sean Rodriguez (his fourth) each homered in the game for the Pirates. Gerrit Cole (10-8) got the win on the mound as he threw eight innings, allowing three runs on six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. Felipe Rivero came on to get the final two outs for his 11th save of the year.
Trevor Williams is on the bump for his 24th appearance and 18th start of the year for the Pirates here. He comes in 5-4 with a 4.17 ERA, a 1.268 WHIP, 31 walks and 76 strikeouts over 105.2 innings this season. Williams has just one loss in 14 starts after picking up the win in his last outing against the Tigers Monday but there’s a catch there: he’s won only three times in that span. He went seven innings, allowing no runs on one hit with two walks and five strikeouts in a 3-0 Pittsburgh victory. Williams has a 1-0 record with a 1.47 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, seven walks and 13 strikeouts over 18.1 innings in his last three starts. In his 31st major league appearance and 19th career start, he faces the Blue Jays for the first time. As a result, this marks his first career outing at Rogers Centre.
Toronto Blue Jays Try to Climb Toward .500
Toronto took two of three from the Yankees but their playoff hopes are extremely slim at this point. The Blue Jays entered Friday four games behind the Mariners and Rays, who were tied for the second wild card spot in the American League. Toronto finished the game with only five hits but also drew four walks and capitalized on an error. Jose Bautista (two runs) hit a solo homer, his 19th of the year, while Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins each drove in a run as well. Marco Estrada (5-7) snapped a 12 start winless streak with the win: he threw seven scoreless frames, allowing five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Chris Rowley is projected to be called up to make his major league debut in this contest. He started the season with Double-A New Hampshire in the Eastern League before being called up to Triple-A Buffalo of the International League on June 19. Rowley was 3-4 with a 2.82 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, 15 walks and 41 strikeouts in 10 appearances, six starts, covering 54.1 innings for the Bisons. His overall numbers for the season give him a 6-6 record with one save, a 2.29 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 24 walks and 90 strikeouts over 106.1 innings of work. In his minor league career, Rowley is 20-9 with two saves, a 2.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 57 walks and 215 strikeouts over 262.2 innings in 67 appearances, 30 of which are starts.
- Pirates are 5-1 in their last 6 interleague games
- Pirates are 4-1 in their last 5 overall
- Pirates are 4-1 in their last 5 vs. a team with a losing record
- Blue Jays are 2-6 in their last 8 Saturday games
It’s tough to get an accurate handle on the Blue Jays: they’re a veteran team that has underachieved and who has dealt with injury issues most of the season. It’s tough to really like a team that sits six games under .500, even if a good week could put them in the thick of the wild card race. Pittsburgh is in the middle of a four team battle for the NL Central lead but they have to take advantage of situations like this. Rowley has pitched well in the minors but this will be a different challenge for him. Look for Williams to have another solid start as the Bucs get the nod here.
Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates +105
Pittsburgh is still trying to make a run in the NL Central but still has to leapfrog the Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs to get to the top. The good news is that there isn’t a major gap to climb over to get there at this point but the schedule is due to take a more difficult turn in the coming days. Toronto is six games under .500 and lost Troy Tulowitzki for the season. Aaron Sanchez can’t avoid blister issues, which leads to the promotion of Rowley in this contest. Williams has just one loss in 14 starts but racking up 10 no-decisions in that span doesn’t lead to an impressive record.
The over is 4-0 in the Pirates last 4 interleague road games, 5-1 in their last 6 interleague road games vs. a right-handed starter, 9-2 in their last 11 interleague games vs. a team with a losing record and 4-1 in their last five contests against teams with a losing record. Toronto has seen the over go 8-1-1 in their last 10 interleague games vs. a team with a losing record, 9-2-1 in their last 12 interleague games and 8-2-1 in their last 11 interleague games vs. a right-handed starter. The teams have gone over the total in six of their last eight meetings: given the less than stellar pitching matchup here, it’s a safe bet that this could head the same way.