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The Phillies' Nick Pivetta has been much improved in 2018, despite getting unlucky on balls in play. Will his luck start to turn around on Friday night?
Welcome back to the LazyBets Free MLB picks column for Friday, July 6th. Thursday’s pick was a dud; Arizona actually outhit San Diego, but not enough of them were of the clutch or extra-base variety in a 6-3 Padres win.
We’ll be looking to bounce back with Friday’s pick, and for that we’ll be taking a look at the MLB version of the Battle of Pennsylvania. The Phillies will be taking the short trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates in the first of a three game set, and the pitching matchup is one that we particularly like for one of these clubs. Let’s get into it.
Philadelphia Phillies (Pivetta) at Pittsburgh Pirates (Williams)
While Nick Pivetta’s 4.66 ERA in 2018 isn’t impressive at first glance, this season has represented a huge step forward for the 25 year-old Phillies righty. First off, Pivetta’s 3.69 FIP is much more encouraging than his ERA, and it suggests that he’s been getting pretty unlucky so far this year. His bad luck is apparent when looking at his .330 BABIP, third highest in baseball amongst qualified starters, despite preventing hard contact at a well above-average rate this season.
While others may remember Pivetta as the guy who had a horrific 6.02 ERA in 2017, there’s no doubt that he’s a much improved pitcher this year, and one that could stick around in the Phillies rotation for a long time. He’s got a dynamite strikeout rate this season (10.76 per nine), so as long as those weakly hit balls stop falling in against him, Pivetta should be able to get better results in the second half of 2018. We’re hoping it starts on Friday.
Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams figures to be heading in the opposite direction, even though his 4.22 ERA is nothing special in the first place. While Pivetta’s BABIP has been unfairly inflated, Williams’s .257 BABIP has been a big reason for his relative success this season. Williams has been able to avoid hard contact like Pivetta has, but with a strikeout rate at a measly 6.68 per nine, weak contact is his only hope. Over time, major league hitters are going to start taking advantage of Williams and his inability to miss bats - he projects as no better than average for the remainder of the year.
The offensive matchup is a close one; even though the Pirates are two spots ahead of the Phils in the wRC+ ranks, we believe a little more in the high-end talent in the Phillies lineup. Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana will be the best two hitters in PNC park on Friday, and those two should be able to lead the Phils to a better ranking than the Pirates’ offense by season’s end.
The betting public may not be aware of how solid Pivetta has been so far in 2018, and we think that is keeping Friday’s moneyline low enough to provide value for us and our readers. Philadelphia -108 will be our best bet of the day for Friday; if Pivetta can avoid those bloop hits and seeing-eye singles, things should work out in our favor.
Good luck to all of you out there - be sure to check out both of our picks for the exciting quarterfinal World Cup action going down on Friday. Our soccer picks have been on fire of late, so be sure to get those picks in before the games kick off.
As always, let's get a win!
Bet the Phillies -108
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