Friday’s Diamond Notes

Hottest team: Pirates (7-3 last 10)

Pittsburgh is in the role of spoiler this weekend as the Pirates look to deny the Brewers a chance at gaining ground on the Cubs in the NL Central. The Pirates pulled out three consecutive one-run wins over the Royals to extend their home winning streak to eight, while not losing a game at PNC Park in September. Pittsburgh’s pitching has stepped up of late by allowing two runs or less in four of the past five games, including two victories at Milwaukee last weekend.

The Pirates trot out right-hander Ivan Nova in the series opener, as the veteran beat the Brewers last Saturday at Miller Park by tossing six innings and allowing one earned run in a 3-1 victory. Nova has delivered quality starts in five of the past six outings, while yielding two earned runs or fewer five times in this span. However, the Pirates have lost each of Nova’s last two starts in the home underdog role to the Braves and Cubs.

Coldest team: Rockies (1-6 last seven)

On Monday, Colorado led Los Angeles by a half-game atop the NL West as the Rockies faced the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine for a three-game set. Three losses later, the Rockies have not only fallen out of first place in the division, but Colorado is looking up at St. Louis for the second Wild Card position in the National League. The rocky road for Colorado continues on Friday with a trip to Arizona, who is in desperation mode after losing six of its past eight games to fall into third place in the NL West.

Colorado has captured seven of the past nine matchups with Arizona as German Marquez heads to the mound on Friday. The Rockies own a 5-2 record in Marquez’s last seven starts, although both losses came on the road. Colorado has won four of Marquez’s five starts against Arizona this season, including both outings at Chase Field.

Hottest pitcher: Luis Castillo, Reds (10-12, 4.52 ERA)

Cincinnati won its first road series opener since the All-Star break on Thursday by doubling up Miami, 4-2, while snapping a nine-game skid in away Game 1’s. Castillo tries to give the Reds back-to-back road wins for only the second time in the second half on Friday as the right-hander is fresh off a pair of solid underdog victories over the Cubs and Dodgers. Castillo put together nearly identical stat lines by allowing four hits and one run, while pitching into the seventh inning against two of the National League’s division leaders. The Reds have won 10 of Castillo’s last 15 starts, including four wins on the road.

Coldest pitcher: CC Sabathia, Yankees (7-7, 3.80 ERA)

New York needs every win down the stretch to secure home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card round, presumably against Oakland. Sabathia has not been at his best late in the season as the former Cy Young winner has allowed five runs in two of his past three starts, while the Yankees are winless in his previous four appearances. Two of those losses have come at home as a favorite of at least -200 to the Blue Jays and White Sox as Sabathia opened as a -300 favorite against the woeful Orioles. The Yankees have lost two of Sabathia’s three starts to Baltimore this season, including as a -215 favorite in July.

Biggest OVER run: Athletics (5-0 last five)

Oakland’s offense has busted out since blowing a 4-1 lead in Tuesday’s loss to Los Angeles. The Athletics dropped a 10-spot on the Angels in Wednesday’s shutout, then topped themselves with a three-touchdown effort in a 21-3 rout of the Halos on Thursday. Since Labor Day, Oakland has scored at least seven runs in eight games, while the pitching has tightened up since allowing 21 runs in a three-game span earlier this week. The A’s host the Twins this weekend, as Oakland scored 19 runs in three victories at Target Field last month.

Biggest UNDER run: Reds (7-0 last seven)

Cincinnati’s pitching has yielded two runs or less in four of the past six games, including allowing two runs to Miami on Thursday. The offense hasn’t been stellar by scoring three runs or less in eight straight games prior to Thursday’s four-run outburst. Luis Castillo is riding a four-start UNDER streak for Cincinnati, while three of his past four road outings have finished UNDER the total.

Matchup to watch: Phillies vs. Braves

Atlanta captured a huge series opening win over Philadelphia on Thursday to move 6 ½ games up in the NL East race. The Braves broke it open late by scoring four runs in the eighth inning to beat the Phillies, 8-3 and pick up their second consecutive victory following a four-game skid. Atlanta also cashed its fifth consecutive OVER as the Braves have plated 15 runs in the past two wins.

The Braves will look to take another step closer towards their first division title since 2013 as Julio Teheran takes the mound on Friday. Atlanta had won four consecutive starts made by Teheran prior to a 7-1 setback to Washington his last time out in which he lasted only four innings and walked six batters. The Braves have won two of Teheran’s three starts against the Phillies this season, including both outings at SunTrust Park.

Following last night’s loss, the Phillies slipped to 1-7 in their past eight road series openers since late July. Nick Pivetta will look to get Philadelphia on track as the Phillies have dropped six of the right-hander’s last seven starts. Pivetta hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning in four straight outings, but the Phillies have won each of his two starts in Atlanta back in the opening month of the season.

Betcha didn’t know: Will the Red Sox and Indians see each other in the playoffs in a few weeks? The two teams meet up for a three-game series in Cleveland this weekend as Chris Sale and Trevor Bauer square off in the opener. Bauer is making his first start since August 11 as the Tribe has won each of his past six outings, while the Red Sox are a perfect 9-0 in Sale’s last nine trips to the mound.

Biggest public favorite: Yankees (-300) vs. Orioles

Biggest public underdog: Rangers (+115) vs. Mariners

Biggest line move: Rockies (+120 to +112) at Diamondbacks

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