Colorado (Freeland) +123 at Pittsburgh (Taillon) O/U 9
Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon will be back on the hill tonight in what’s likely to be a more emotional moment than your ordinary return from the DL. Early money is showing strong support for Pittsburgh’s prized righty has soared from a -119 opener to -132. Taillon has said that he is 100% mentally and physically heading into this start and he claims to be as sharp as he’s been all year. He stretched out to 97 pitches over six innings in his final rehab start last Wednesday so it appears as if all systems are go. Colorado rookie Kyle Freeland has successfully pitched to contact thus far. Freeland’s 49 strikeouts in 76 innings are underwhelming but his 127 ground ball outs and 57.5% ground ball rate have propelled him. There are some peripherals that suggest season long success isn’t likely sustainable but he’s been pretty economical to this point averaging six innings and 15.5 pitches per inning. Nine of his past 10 starts have been quality by definition.
It’s pretty easy to find indicators that show Freeland is heading for a decline but that may not begin here. Pittsburgh’s offense has been miserable all season and its 25th-ranked team OPS seems like the type that can be frustrated by Freeland, especially in their first time seeing him. Taillon, on the other hand has the dominant stuff which could be effective even against a lineup as potent as the Rockies. Colorado remains hot heading into tonight’s series opener having hit .289 last week with a .375 on base percentage and .841 OPS. Figure the Colorado bullpen which has been sensational and has their top three arms rested and available tonight (Holland, McGee and Ottavino) can be a difference maker along with the relentless Rockies lineup. Meanwhile, the Pirates recent demotion of closer Tony Watson hurts their pen as does the back-back days worked by their best late inning relievers Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio. There are enough advantages here that signal the underdog price with the Rockies is worth a look.