July 21 MLB Preview — Philadelphia Phillies (51-48) at Pittsburgh Pirates (46-51)

(Bryce Harper photo courtesy Charles LeClair/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Sunday, July 21, PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1:35 p.m. EDT.

The Philadelphia Phillies’ patchwork rotation is expected to add another piece in its series finale Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates as Drew Smyly is likely to make his debut.

Smyly gets ball looking to resurrect career post-Tommy John surgery

The Phillies began play Friday ranked 12th in ERA among starters (4.62), and only Aaron Nola has a sub-4.00 ERA. Manager Gabe Kapler has opted to shake things up by moving Nick Pivetta to the bullpen to add a right-handed arm there and push back Vince Velasquez to mid-week.

Into the gap steps Smyly (1-5, 8.42 ERA), who was released by the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday after three minor league starts. Prior to the Brewers signing him, the left-hander had been cut by the Texas Rangers on June 25 after being designated for assignment five days prior.

“We’ll see how [Pivetta] looks out of the bullpen, and we’ll see how Vince continues to develop in the rotation,” Kapler told MLB.com on Friday. “We’ll see how Smyly looks, and we’ll make decisions as they come up and as they’re appropriate.”

Smyly last pitched in the majors June 18 when he was tagged for five runs and six hits, including three homers, in 3 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Smyly, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, has served up 19 gopher balls in 51 1-3 innings.

The southpaw last faced Pittsburgh in 2013, making a relief appearance for Detroit. His lone start the year before resulted in a loss.

Hurdle turning to rookie Agrazal in pinch for Bucs

After originally expressing concern about starting rookie Dario Agrazal (2-0, 2.45) on four days’ rest, manager Clint Hurdle could not find a better option in the minors or his bullpen as Saturday’s scheduled starter Trevor Williams had not overcome the flu well enough to be pushed back only one day.

Agrazal, though, has defied expectations since his initial call-up last month and has allowed two runs or less while pitching at least six innings in each of his last three starts. He limited the Cardinals to one run in six innings Tuesday but did not factor in the decision of Pittsburgh’s eventual 3-1 victory.

On Saturday, Hurdle was clearly torn about leaning too much on the 24-year-old, telling the Trib-Live, “We can’t fit him (in the rotation) twice in five days. That doesn’t work. We’re going to leave him alone on a regular rotation.”

Notable Trends:

The Pirates are:

  • 8-2 in their last 10 games after their opponents allow five or more runs in the previous game.
  • 10-3 in their last 13 home games.
  • 9-3 in their last 12 home games vs. above-.500 teams.

The Phillies are:

  • 5-11 in their last 16 during game 3 of a series.
  • 5-12 in their last 17 road games vs. the Pirates.
  • 4-9 in their last 13 road games vs. right-handed starters.

*****5-Star Pick!!!!!

Pirates -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-110)

The number is the same whether laying the half-run for the Pirates or taking them on the 3-way money line, but there is confidence Agrazal will give Hurdle the five innings he needs in this contest. There is, again, little confidence in Smyly getting through all five innings in his return to the bigs.

Pittsburgh is 2-0-1 at the five-inning mark in the rookie’s last three starts and 7-2-3 in its last 12 at home.

****4-Star Picks!!!!

Pirates (-140)

While Agrazal appears to be the starter of last resort for Hurdle, his early returns are very encouraging. Yet the reason the pick is only on the money line as opposed to the run line is because this will be the first time the rookie is pitching on less than six days of rest since joining the Pirates.

All that said, Agrazal is still a far better option than the Phillies throwing Smyly out there.

The lefty did not wow anyone in the Brewers organization while at Triple-A San Antonio, going 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA over 12 2-3 innings in his three starts, and his 3.33 homers per nine innings with Texas is a huge red flag in hitter-friendly PNC Park.

Pirates OVER 5.5 runs (-115)

This is an anti-Smyly pick more than a pro-Pirates pick, but there is optimism considering Pittsburgh has scored five or more runs in seven of its last nine home games. The Phillies have allowed five or more in five of their last six games overall and 17 of their last 22 on the road.

***3-Star Picks!!!

OVER 11 runs (Even)

Smyly’s form makes the over the lean, but the expectation is for Hurdle to be very conservative for Agrazal, which means a quick hook if he gets in trouble and an expectation of no more than five innings.

The over is 5-1-1 in Pittsburgh’s last seven home games versus left-handed starters and 15-5-1 in its last 21 overall against southpaws. The over has also hit in four of the Pirates’ last five games following a win and has a solid 23-7-2 mark in the last 32 at PNC Park.

The over is also a healthy 9-2 in Philadelphia’s last 11 games coming off a loss.

OVER 6 runs first 5 innings (-121)

Another anti-Smyly pick, as the five-inning over posted a 6-3 mark in his nine starts with the Rangers. Pittsburgh has also done well backing Agrazal with 11 runs in the first five innings of his last two starts, and the expectation is the Pirates will continue getting runs for their rookie.

Phillies UNDER 1.5 runs first 3 innings (-140)

A confidence pick in Agrazal getting through his first turn through the lineup unscathed. He has held opponents scoreless in the first three innings twice in his four starts and held a third to one run. The Phillies have failed to plate a run in the first three innings in the first two games of this series, and the hook provides just enough margin of error to thread the needle.

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