The Pittsburgh Pirates (39-35) and Philadelphia Phillies (36-41) will close out a four-game National League series on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 ET

Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates SP A.J. Burnett is one of the hottest throwers in baseball

Pittsburgh set a season-high in runs and hits in its 11-7 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday night, with the club moving into a season-place tie with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central standings.  “We just tried to stay within ourselves,” commented Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen about the offensive outburst.  He has managed to hit all of his 14 home runs since May 8, while batting .444 over his last 11 games.  The club has won eight of its last nine series, with its only loss coming against the Baltimore Orioles from June 12-14.  Pittsburgh is 2-1 on the road with a money line of -100 to -125.

Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (8-2, 3.24 ERA) has rattled off seven wins in a row, including a 4-1 home victory over the Detroit Tigers last time out, giving up two hits and not a single earned run in six frames.  The right-hander is 3-2 with a 7.18 ERA in five road outings, as opposing hitters are batting .324 against him.  In 18 career games (17 starts) versus the Phillies, Burnett has tallied a 5-9 record and 5.13 ERA, including a 2-3 mark and 5.04 ERA in six appearances (five starts) at this ballpark.

Philadelphia welcomed back one of its biggest offensive starts, but it wasn’t enough to continue its mini two-game win streak.  “I was excited to be out there,” stated Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.  He ended up going 3-for-5 in his 2012 season debut, including a home run to right field in his first at-bat.  The Phillies are still a dominating 20-6 against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.  Philadelphia is 8-16 in day games this year, with the “over” going 14-9 in that situation.

Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 5.24 ERA) is looking to snap a personal three-game losing streak, as he didn’t factor into the decision of a 7-6 home win over the Tampa Bay Rays last time out.  He surrendered three runs (two earned) and six hits in four frames in that effort.  The right-hander is 1-4 with a 5.34 ERA in seven home games (five starts), issuing 18 walks and striking out 27 batters in 30.1 frames.  In seven career games (five starts) versus the Pirates, Kendrick has compiled a 4-1 record and 3.38 ERA.

Bettors will likely back the Pirates due to their 9-0 record in Burnett’s last nine starts with a total of 7.0 to 8.5, while the Phillies are 2-7 in their last nine games as a home underdog.

Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates -118

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