Cardinals vs. Pirates MLB Odds & Picks: How to Bet St. Louis on the Road (Saturday, May 1)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty.
- Both the Cardinals and surprisingly the Pirates are neck and neck in the National League Central after one month of play.
- St. Louis starts the talented Jack Flaherty against Pittsburgh's Trevor Cahill, and both are supported by two of the better bullpens in MLB.
- See why BJ Cunningham is backing St. Louis is this second game of a four-game series.
Cardinals vs. Pirates Odds
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Two teams who are neck and neck in the NL Central meet Saturday for the second battle in their four-game series.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who are off to a rocky 2021 start, will be without their leader behind the plate for little while. Yadier Molina went on the 10-day DL this week, which will have a big effect on the Redbirds for the next few weeks.
However, St. Louis sends ace Jack Flaherty to the mound, with the hope he can shut down the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup.
Pittsburgh had the lowest win total coming into the season, but so far the club has defied the odds. The Pirates send Trevor Cahill to the mound to try and keep their good start going this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
In 2020, the Cardinals’ lineup was below average despite making the playoffs. St. Louis only had a .306 wOBA and 93 wRC+, plus it really struggled versus right-handed pitching, ranking 23rd in wOBA. Even though the Cardinals added Nolan Arenado in the offseason, their struggles against right-handed pitching has continued, as they’re hitting for only .214 average and .287 wOBA.
However, with all that being said, the one pitch the Cardinals have had success against this season is the changeup, ranking third in baseball. Cahill utilized his changeup more than any other pitch last season, so the Redbirds might be able to break out of their slump against righties in this spot.
Last season, the Pirates were dead last in wOBA, wRC+, Home Runs and a bunch of other offensive categories. Pittsburgh didn’t make many upgrades and let their best hitter — Josh Bell — go in the offseason.
However, the Pirates have made improvements so far, posting a .300 wOBA and 92 wRC+. What’s even more impressive is they’ve done it without young sensation Ke’Bryan Hayes, who is currently on the injured list.
Basically, all of Pittsburgh’s success has come against right-handed pitching, ranking 12th in MLB in wOBA. However, they’ll have a difficult matchup against one of the best righties in all of baseball in Jack Flaherty.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Jack Flaherty vs. Trevor Cahill
2021 ZIPS Projected Stats (via Fangraphs)
Cardinals Starting Pitcher
Jack Flaherty, RHP
2020 Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Flaherty has been a little unlucky in 2020. He’s put up a 4.91 ERA, but his xFIP is almost a run and a half lower at 3.51. He got shelled on Opening Day, but since then he’s been outstanding outside of a start against the Washington Nationals last week where he gave up five earned runs. Opponents are only hitting .186 against him, plus he’s posted a 0.95 WHIP. That means he should be able to shut down the Pirates’ lineup.
Flaherty has a four-pitch arsenal, with each of his offerings rating out really well. His slider is especially lethal, garnering a whiff rate of 49.4% last season. As you can see in the clip below, his slider is almost untouchable.
Jack Flaherty's slider has been just beautiful this year:
– 42.6% chase rate
– 23.5% SwStr rate
– 36.7% CSW
– 40.9% strikeout rate
– .278 wOBA against pic.twitter.com/0EHHNG89zq
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) September 4, 2019
Pirates Starting Pitcher
Trevor Cahill, RHP
2020 Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Cahill has been bouncing around MLB the past few seasons, mainly due to the fact that he’s an average pitcher at best. His past two seasons have been particularly quite awful, with him posting a 5.11 xFIP in 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels and 4.48 in 2020 with the San Francisco Giants.
What’s quite astonishing about Cahill is how low his ground ball rate is for a guy who mainly throws a changeup/sinker/curveball combination. In 2020, he only posted a 33.3% ground-ball rate, which is astonishingly low given all of his pitches live in the bottom half of the zone.
However, Cahill is actually due for some positive regression because his ERA is all the way up at 7.11 through his first four starts, but his xFIP is all the way down at 3.25. So, he might just see some of that positive regression against this average Cardinals’ lineup.
Despite both of these teams being around .500, their bullpens have been quite stellar. Both St. Louis and Pittsburgh are in the top 10 in ERA, plus the Pirates have the third-best xFIP to begin the season.
The biggest difference in this matchup is going to be the play in the field. The Cardinals are the best defensive team in baseball, while Pittsburgh is one of the worst. That said, St. Louis will have a big advantage in this area.
I think the Cardinals have a huge advantage with Flaherty on the mound. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and has a fantastic matchup against a weak Pirates’ lineup.
Additionally, even though the Cardinals have struggled so far, they should be able to get to a below-average pitcher like Cahill.
Since I have St. Louis projected at -242 odds, I think there is value on the club at -143 odds via DraftKings and would play it up to -175 odds.
Pick: Cardinals ML (-143)