Bucs Host Phils
Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel attributes Pat Burrell's hot hitting to a batting stance adjustment. Burrell, though, may not want to alter the approach he's had at the plate against the Pittsburgh Pirates in recent years.
The Phillies hope Burrell, one of baseball's hottest hitters, can continue his success against the Pirates as the teams open a three-game series Friday night.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Philadelphia -118 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -118 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
Philadelphia (12-11) has won four of its last five games, thanks partly to Burrell's outstanding play. The veteran left fielder's two-out, two-run double on an 0-2 count broke a tie in the eighth inning, leading the Phillies to a 3-1 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday.
Burrell has a club-record 24 RBIs in April, and 25 on the season.
"He's swinging good, man. He's hot," said Manuel, who said Burrell's ability to hit with two strikes is a sign of confidence in his new batting stance.
Burrell has two home runs and eight RBIs in his last four games.
"If you have a good approach with two strikes, and you get a few hits here and there, you start building some confidence with it and you're not worried about hitting with two strikes," Burrell said.
He has certainly been at ease against Pittsburgh (9-13) in recent years. Burrell is batting .360 with five home runs, six doubles and 16 RBIs in his last 15 games versus the Pirates after hitting .255 with one home run in his first 29 against them.
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, meanwhile, has been terrible in 18 career games against Pittsburgh, batting .111 with no home runs and 31 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. Howard, in the midst of an early season slump, isn't expected to face the Pirates on Friday.
Howard - batting .181 with four home runs in the first 22 games - was not in the lineup Thursday, and Manuel said he would likely try to rest Howard in the opener of this series.
Philadelphia's lineup will be facing Pittsburgh's Zach Duke (0-1, 4.37 ERA), who is coming off his worst start of the season. He gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings as the Pirates lost 13-6 on Sunday. The left-hander had allowed three runs or less in each of his previous three starts.
Duke is 1-1 with a 3.65 ERA in two career starts against the Phillies.
Philadelphia will counter with Adam Eaton (0-0, 4.74 ERA), who has struggled against Pittsburgh. He is 2-1 with a 9.74 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances lifetime versus the Pirates, but hasn't faced them since Aug. 4, 2005.
Eaton has been unspectacular this season, but he has surrendered just one home run in 24 2-3 innings after giving up a career-worst 30 last season. The right-hander allowed four runs and six hits in five innings as Philadelphia beat the New York Mets 5-4 on Sunday night.
Eaton will be facing a Pirates team that has lost seven of nine, scoring two runs or less five times in that span. Pittsburgh lost 6-2 to St. Louis on Thursday night after winning the series opener 7-4 the previous night.
One of the few bright spots for the Pirates on Thursday was Xavier Nady, whose ninth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 12 games. The right fielder is batting .370 (17-for-46) during that span.
Philadelphia went 4-2 against Pittsburgh last season, but the Pirates scored a combined 19 runs en route to winning the final two meetings.