The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to host the Atlanta Braves today in the first matchup of a three-game set at PNC Park. With that said, it’s a good time to check out our MLB Odds series, which includes our Braves-Pirates prediction and pick we have laid out below.

This showdown pits two teams against each other whose 2022 season has gone in vastly different directions. The Braves hold an eight-game lead in the National League wild card race at 75-48, and are only four games back of the New York Mets for the NL East lead after winning eight of their last 10 games. The Pirates, meanwhile are dead last in the NL Central at 47-74, with losses in eight of their last 10 contests.

Atlanta has dominated the season series so far, sweeping the Pirates while out-scoring them 22-10 in their previous four meetings this year.

Here are the Braves-Pirates MLB odds, courtesy of FanDuel. 

MLB Odds: Braves-Pirates Odds

Atlanta Braves: -1.5 (-122)

Pittsburgh Pirates: +1.5 (+102)

Over: 9 (-106)

Under: 9 (-114)

Why The Braves Could Cover The Spread

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The Braves, as they have for much of the season, looked the part of the defending World Series champions over weekend. They won two out of three games against the Houston Astros, who they took down in last year’s Fall Classic, winning comfortably in game one before coming from behind in both extra frames to beat Houston 5-4 in 11 innings on Saturday. Atlanta’s clutch hitting nearly came through again for the sweep on Sunday, coming up one run shy of erasing a three-run deficit in the ninth inning.

This late-inning success against an Astros relief staff that has a 3.01 bullpen ERA should make this week’s series with Pittsburgh a cake walk, considering the Pirates’ 4.61 bullpen ERA is the fourth-worst in baseball. Starting pitching shouldn’t be much of a challenge, either. Although right-hander Roansy Contreras has enjoyed a respectable rookie campaign for the Pirates, posting a 4.02 ERA with a .245 opponent’s batting average, his production has taken a notable downturn as of late. After keeping his ERA below 3.00 through June, the 22-year-old has allowed 12 earned runs and seven walks in 13 2/3 innings over his last three starts. He was rocked for four earned runs and four walks his last time out against a Boston Red Sox team that is just 12-18 over their last 30 games.

Meanwhile, the Braves have been one of the hottest teams in baseball at the plate since the All-Star break, ranking fourth in the MLB in runs scored, OPS and slugging percentage and fifth in home runs and on-base percentage. First baseman Matt Olson’s 21 RBIs are the seventh-most in the National League over the last 30 days, while Olson and outfielder Michael Harris are tied for 10th with 18 runs scored, followed by shortstop Dansby Swanson with 17 runs scored in the past month.

Why The Pirates Could Cover The Spread

While the Pirates rank near the bottom of the MLB in most offensive metrics, both over the course of the year and during the second half of the season, their speed on the base paths has the potential to cause problems. After totaling only 40 stolen bases in the first half, Pittsburgh’s 22 swiped bags in 28 games since the All-Star break rank fifth in all of baseball.

There also can be a case made that there isn’t much of a disparity in terms of starting pitching. While it’s impossible to ignore Contreras’ recent struggles, the fact that he didn’t allow more than three earned runs in seven consecutive starts in May and June is a positive sign. He allowed just 10 earned runs in 34 2/3 innings during this stretch, while giving up one run or less in four of these outings. Atlanta starter Jake Odorizzi, meanwhile, has a 5.93 ERA with opponent’s hitting .361 off him in three games since being traded to the Braves.

It’s no secret that hitting has been an issue for the Pirates all year, but a few players have increased their production significantly in the past week. Outfielders Ben Gamel, Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Kevin Newman all rank among the top 25 in the National League with OPS figures of 1.002, .933 and .865, respectively, over the last six games.

Final Braves-Pirates Prediction & Pick

Given the inconsistencies from a starting pitching standpoint, this is one of the toughest run line picks in Monday’s slate of games. On most nights, the Braves against the Pirates’ woeful offense would be a comfortable bet. But given that two of Odorizzi’s three starts have resulted in losses, while the other was a one-run win over the Miami Marlins, Atlanta on the run line is far from a lock. With Contreras and Odorizzi giving up a combined 21 runs over their last 27 1/3 innings, the over seems to be the play here, as long as it doesn’t rise above nine runs.

Final Braves-Pirates Prediction & Pick: Over 9 (-106)