Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#4901 Pittsburgh Pirates vs.
#4902 Philadelphia Phillies
Sunday, September 26, 2021 at 1:05pm EDT
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

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In-state rivals will finish up a four-game series on Sunday afternoon when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia will be going for the sweep after winning the first three games of the season, including a 3-0 victory on Saturday to hit as a -275 favorite. Pittsburgh has the second-worst record in the NL at 57-97, while Philadelphia is one game out of the NL East lead at 81-74.

This is the final meeting of 2021 between these teams with Philadelphia leading the season series 4-2.

Pittsburgh looks to avoid four-game sweep against Phillies

After losing two slugfests to Philadelphia to open the current series, the offense let the Pirates down on Saturday in a shutout loss. Pittsburgh managed just four singles for the entire afternoon, with the Phillies taking the lead in the third inning and never looking back.

Starter Wil Crowe went 4.2 innings in the loss, allowing three runs on eight hits on four walks while striking out two. Catcher Taylor Davis recorded two of Pittsburgh's four hits in his first MLB action since 2019.

Pittsburgh has been much better against the spread at 72-82, but is way down on the money line for the season with the miserable outright record. Overs are an even 72-72-10 for the Pirates, including 5-4-1 over their last 10 games.

It's been a rough season for the Pirates at the plate, as they are averaging 3.73 runs per game with a 0.670 team OPS, both the worst marks in the NL. Pittsburgh pitching also ranks in the bottom three with a 5.10 collective ERA, including a mark of 5.48 from a rotation that has really struggled.

Rookie Max Kranick is set to make his eighth career start on Sunday after lasting five innings against the Miami Marlins last time out, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks while racking up six strikeouts. The 24-year-old is still adjusting to the MLB level with a 1-3 record and 7.28 ERA across 29.2 innings. Bryan Reynolds has been one of the few bright spots for the Pirates all season, batting .295/.384/.508 with 24 homers and 88 RBI.

Catcher Jacob Stallings, who has been one of Pittsburgh's best players this year, is on the concussion IL. First baseman Michael Chavis is sidelined by a strained elbow. The rotation is dealing with several injuries, as Steven Brault (strained lat), JT Brubaker (shoulder inflammation), Trevor Cahill (fractured foot), Chase De Jong (knee surgery), Dillon Peters (strained lower back) and Bryse Wilson (strained hamstring) all on the IL. Closer David Bednar went on the IL earlier this month with a strained oblique, while Blake Cederlind (Tommy John surgery), Jose Soriano (Tommy John surgery) and Duane Underwood Jr. (shoulder inflammation) are all also out.

Suarez tosses complete game as Phillies win fifth straight

One of the main reasons Philadelphia is still in the playoff race is reliever turned starter Ranger Suarez, who was excellent again in a complete-game shutout win over the Pirates on Saturday. Matt Vierling got the scoring started with his first career homer in the third before Bryce Harper went deep later that inning, and an RBI single from Brad Miller in the fifth was helpful insurance.

Suarez went the distance, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out seven in a dominant performance. Vierling was on base three times out of the leadoff spot, while J.T. Realmuto checked in with a multi-hit game.

“I didn’t really think about having a season like this one, obviously,” Suárez said to MLB.com about his breakout season “But I try to be an overachiever. I obviously want to exceed expectations, but I have to give a lot of credit to people in the clubhouse, like J.T. [Realmuto] behind the plate, Neris, Alvarado, Bradley, [Kyle] Gibson. These are pitchers that have helped me a lot to develop my pitches, to become a better pitcher."

Philadelphia is just 75-78 against the spread, and only just got into positive territory on the money line with the three wins over the Pirates in this series. Overs are 75-74-4 for the Phillies, although just two of their last nine games have gone over the betting total.

It's been an uneven but ultimately good season for the Phillies offense, which is averaging 4.61 runs per game with a 0.733 team OPS. Philadelphia pitching is below average with a 4.43 collective ERA, including a mark of 4.64 from a bullpen that has struggled for yet another season.

Rookie Adonis Medina is set to take the mound to close out the season for his fourth career appearance after lasting 3.2 innings on Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles, allowing one run on four hits and two walks while striking out three. The 24-year-old has tossed 5.2 innings overall, allowing one run on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Harper is in contention for the NL MVP Award with a 1.051 OPS, 34 homers and 82 RBI.

Philadelphia is down one big bat with first baseman Rhys Hoskins undergoing season-ending abdominal surgery. Center fielder Roman Quinn is also recovering after suffering a ruptured Achilles in May. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin, who was having a strong season, is also done for the year due to surgery on his patellar tendon. The bullpen is also missing some key names, with Archie Bradley (strained oblique), Connor Brogdon (strained groin), Matt Moore (strained lower back) and JoJo Romero (Tommy John surgery) on the IL.

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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In a battle between two unproven rookie starters, it's better to go with a Phillies team that is far superior in every other facet at plus odds on the run line. The Phillies have been in command of this series outscoring Pittsburgh 23-12 across the three games as they push for the playoffs, and the offense will ensure another blowout here.

Philadelphia's push for the division crown has been largely due to an offense that is posting a 111 wRC+ over the last 30 days to rank third in the NL, as Harper is on the type of hot streak where he can carry the team himself some nights. That's a tough assignment or the inexperienced Kranick to handle as he's really struggling to keep traffic off the bases with a 1.75 WHIP in his young career.

Pittsburgh has issues in every facet, but an offense that has just an 82 wRC+ is the biggest concern, and the Pirates lack of production at the plate will help Medina get some confidence in just his third outing of the season. The Phillies have been hot with an 8-2 record over their last 10 games as they push for the playoffs, and they have enough offense to handle Kranick and the Pirates despite their own pitching uncertainty.

Prediction: Phillies -1.5 (+105)

Full-Game Total Pick

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With two completely unproven rookie starters facing off in a great hitters park, it's impossible to trust the under here. Philadelphia's bullpen has struggled badly even against bad opposing offenses like the Pirates, as it ranks third from the bottom in baseball with just 0.5 WAR on the season and doesn't have many reliable options with some key pieces out due to injury.

Philadelphia's offense isn't just Harper during this current hot streak, as veterans like Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen are hitting well while Vierling is starting to turn some heads with a 138 wRC+ in his first 60 career at-bats. The Pirates were able to score enough in the first two games of this series despite their limitations at the plate, and Philadelphia will keep mashing against a struggling rookie.

Prediction: Over 9.5 (-110)
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily.