MLB Regular Season

Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates

Date/Time: July 10, 7:05 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Lance Lynn (6-4, 2.53) vs. Gerrit Cole (12-3, 2.28)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Pittsburgh -130

Total: 6.5

Jeff Locke and the Pittsburgh Pirates defense had one bad inning on Thursday night. It was more than enough for Carlos Martinez and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals drew first blood in this huge NL Central weekend set with a 4-1 win in the series opener. Offense was at a premium as the two teams combined for just five runs on 11 hits with three walks and 19 strikeouts. St. Louis scored all four of their runs in the fifth inning against Locke, though three of the runs allowed by the southpaw were unearned. The second game of this four-game series is on Friday night with a tremendous pitching matchup between Lance Lynn and Gerrit Cole.

With the win, the Cardinals pushed their division lead back out to 5.5 games and increased their league-leading win total to 56. The Cardinals are now 5-2 against the Pirates this season and improved to 25-10 against the NL Central. The Pirates fell to 14-21 against division foes. Fifteen of St. Louis’s losses have come in games where they have scored one run or have been shutout. They are 55-15 when scoring two or more runs. The Pirates are 40-10 when they allow three runs or less, but drop to 10-25 when they allow four or more.

Runs could be at a premium again on Friday with an excellent pitching matchup between Lynn and Cole. Lynn has been forced to carry a much bigger load this season with staff ace Adam Wainwright on the mend from his second Tommy John surgery. He survived a scare of his own last month when he left his June 7 start after a major drop in velocity late in the game. He was placed on the 15-day DL and has thrown 19 innings of one-earned-run ball since coming back.

Lynn is on track for his best season as a starter. He has averaged better than a strikeout per inning and has a 2.53 ERA with a 2.72 FIP and a 3.41 xFIP. Lynn’s career as a starter really took off in 2014 when he became more effective against left-handed hitters. In 2012, lefties hit .268/.384/.456 and followed it up with a 2013 showing of .252/.361/.404. Lynn made some changes to his repertoire last season and held them to a .243/.325/.372 slash. This season, he has taken it another step with a .204/.290/.338 slash against. He has always been dominant against righties with his fastball-heavy arsenal, holding them to a .236/.289/.344 slash. Between his four-seamer and two-seamer, Lynn is throwing fastballs nearly 80 percent of the time this season per PITCHf/x. That should be a good matchup for him against a Pirates team that ranks 17th in runs above average on fastballs.

At 24, Gerrit Cole is already one of the NL’s most dominant arms. Limited to 22 starts last season, Cole posted a 3.65 ERA with a 3.23 FIP and a 3.25 xFIP. This season, everything has moved in a positive direction. Cole is averaging more than a strikeout per inning with an excellent rate and a 2.28/2.60/2.85 pitcher slash. The hard-throwing right-hander has also sequenced better this season, with a 78.8 percent LOB% and a 52.4 percent ground ball percentage.

Not that pitcher wins is a good measure of success, but Cole’s 12 wins are the most in the Major Leagues this season. Cole is a bit of a rarity in that he is predominantly a two-pitcher starter that flashes a curveball and an occasional changeup. Ninety-three percent of his pitches this season are fastballs or sliders per PITCHf/x. His fastball command is among the best in the league, as opposing hitters are batting just .254/.311/.331. His slider is also dominant, with a .158/.204/.242 slash and a 21.5 percent whiff rate.

Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates

This is must-see TV with two guys that throw a lot of fastballs with pinpoint precision. Both pitchers have been dominant this season, but the Pirates ace is in a very big spot here with what should be a great Friday night crowd. Don’t be surprised if this game stays under the total as well.