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Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals Free Pick - 9/1/13

St. Louis Cardinals (78-57) at Pittsburgh Pirates (79-56)

MLB Baseball: Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm (PNC Park)

Joe Kelly (R) (6-1) (2.173) vs. Kris Johnson (L) (0-1) (3.00)

The Line: Pittsburgh Pirates -108 / St. Louis Cardinals -102 --- Over/Under: 8 See the Latest Odds

TV: FS-Midwest, Root-Pittsburgh

The battle for control of the NL Central rages on Sunday with the Pittsburgh Pirates hosting the St Louis Cardinals.

St Louis has learned that losing a few games in the top heavy National League Central is the difference between the division lead and second place. The Cardinals are back in second after a 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh made three in a row. In the defeats, neither the bats or arms have put up much of a fight, with Saturday's starter Lance Lynn charged with all seven runs on ten hits and three free passes over just four innings. The bats couldn't keep up on six hits and a free pass, with Carlos Beltran driving in the lone run. A hot Joe Kelly takes the ball Sunday at Pittsburgh, riding a three-game winning streak. In this stretch, Kelly has allowed three runs on 19 hits and eight free passes covering 18 innings pitched.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals Free Pick - 9/1/13

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Pirates are back atop the National League Central, which isn't the first time in 2013 and my guess is it won't be the last. Like them or hate them, you have to give the Buccos credit as they were in a funk heading in to this series with the Redbirds and after Saturday's decision, they own back-to-back victories over their division rivals. AJ Burnett was dominant on the mound, with the lone run scored on four hits and a base on balls over seven innings pitched. The bats made that a winning performance on 13 hits and a trio of waks, with Russell Martin pacing the attack with a home run and three runs knocked in, while Neil Walker posted three hits and an RBI. The Pirates send rookie Kris Johnson to the hill to face the Cardinals in his first career start. Johnson has one relief appearance to his credit,where he went six innings and allowed a pair of runs.

I haven't seen enough of Johnson to draw any conclusions about him, while Kelly has at least something to go on, although it won't matter if the Cardinals don't hit.

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