The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a huge surprise in Major League Baseball this season. They'll look to continue that effort throughout the weekend as the Pirates travel to take on the Houston Astros. Thursday's game is scheduled for an 8:05 p.m. EST start time and it will be televised nationally on MLB.tv in addition to locally. Currently the MLB odds have the Pirates favored at -168 with the total set at 8.5 runs.
Free Preview: This could be a bit weird for Wandy Rodriguez, who had pitched several years in Houston but was just recently traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won't start tonight against his former team, but AJ Burnett will take the hill against the Astros. Burnett has actually been a very good surprise for the Pirates this season, winning 11 games already against just three losses overall. That's not bad and he has an ERA that is hovering around 3.50, which is phenomenal in the National League. Pittsburgh opens a 10-game road stint tonight in this game and they have had their struggles on the road so far this year, sporting just a 22-26 overall record. A quick trip to Houston might allow them to improve on that record considerably. Houston is a .500 team at home (24-24) but is the worst team in the league overall. They've traded anyone away that ever made any substantial amount of money and seem to be starting over, from the bottom up. Rookie phenom Starling Marte is going to make his Major League Debut tonight and he is highly touted. Marte hit .286 with 12 homers, 21 doubles, 13 triples, 62 RBIs and 21 steals in 99 games this year at AAA Indianapolis. Since June 1, the Pirates are second in the majors in both runs (247) and homers (69), but their left fielders have had little to do with that success. For the season, Pittsburgh's left fielders rank last in the majors in batting (.196) and RBIs (25). Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.03) gets the start for the Astros. Houston has plated three runs or fewer in 12 of 14 games, and has lost 22 of 24 overall. In addition, Andrew McCutchen leads the majors with a .369 average.
Free Pick: We really like the Pirates tonight, which is a pricey road favorite, but Burnett is a guy that we have backed several times this season and Pittsburgh has been profitable for us. The road record isn't the best and if the Pirates are serious about making the playoffs, they're going to have to start putting wins together away from home. I'm interested to see the debut of Marte at the elite level tonight because he's torn the minor leagues up pretty well. We are expecting big things from him tonight and we like the Pirates.
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