Cardinals vs Pirates Preview and Free Pick [4/5/2016]

St. Louis (0-1) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
When: Tuesday, April 5th 2016
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: MLB Network

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The St. Louis Cardinals ended the 2015 season by losing six of their last seven games including the Playoffs and now start the season 0-1 after Sunday’s opening day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two will meet again in the middle game of their three-game set in Pittsburgh. Francisco Liriano pitched six scoreless innings and former Cardinal David Freese had two hits in his Pirates debut as Pittsburgh took the opener 4-1. Freese is playing third-base while Jung-Ho Kang recovers from a knee injury. Matt Holliday played first-base for the Cardinals on Sunday for one inning before moving to left-field to replace the injured Tommy Pham who was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained cage muscle. Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco also collected two hits a piece for the Pirates.


Probable Pitchers: Cardinals – Michael Wacha (2015: 17-7, 3.38 ERA) | Pirates – Jonathon Niese (2015: 9-10, 4.13)

Michael Wacha will get the start for St. Louis tonight and is coming off a season where he threw 181+ innings and he will have his innings-restriction lifted this season. Wacha allowed eight earned runs, 25 hits and four walks while striking out 10 in 17 2/3 spring innings covering five starts, but pitched five shutout innings in his final tune-up. Wacha is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven games (six starts) versus Pittsburgh, but was roughed up in his final start of 2015 at PNC Park (6 runs, 4 innings).

Jon Niese will make his Pirates debut tonight after being acquired in a trade from the Mets for Neil Walker. Niese is 3-1 with a 3.47 ERA in four starts at  PNC Park in his career. The Ohio native, who is 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts against St. Louis, is 41-41, 3.94 at night and 20-20, 3.85 during the day in his career. Niese did not look good during the spring as he allowed 14 runs and 18 hits in 15 innings over four starts while walking four and striking out nine. PNC Park is a friendly park for left-handed pitchers and I expect him to have a solid season.

I’m going to ride with the Pirates in this game behind a strong outing by Niese. Expect a low-scoring affair, but the Pirates will come up with the big hits at home again and go 2-0.

Pick: Pirates -106