Dodgers vs. Pirates prediction and odds for Thursday, April 27 (Can Keller be an Ace?)

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23) / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates had its storybook win-streak ended in Game 1 of this series against the Los Angeles Dodgers when they blew a big lead. That had a lot of people wondering if Pittsburgh’s early success was a facade, but yesterday the Bucs showed they can take a punch and punched back with an 8-1 win to even the series. That brings us to the rubber match, a game that the Pirates desperately need, not for the standings, but to prove that they belong with the National League’s best. 

It’s the biggest start of Mitch Keller’s young career and his first chance to prove that he can lead a pitching staff to very real success. Keller is head-to-head not just with the Dodgers powerful lineup, but with Julio Urias, one of their aces. Keller is 2-0 with a 3.64 ERA in five starts while Urias is 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA in his first five outings of the year. 

It’s the rubber match at PNC Park, early in the afternoon. Dodgers vs. Pirates, let’s get into the odds. 

Dodgers vs. Pirates odds, run line and total

Dodgers vs. Pirates prediction and pick

If the Pirates are going to be a real contender, then they need an ace in their pitching staff, a bulldog starter who can stare down another team’s best arm and shove for seven innings. We’ve seen great performances from the young guns, Johan Oviedo and Roansy Contreras and even strong outings from Vince Velasquez, but it has to be Keller. He’s pitched like a top of the line guy since the middle of last season, but even though it’s April this is the biggest start of his career. 

Keller has had some strong outings this year, but I don't think he’s that guy. I think he’s a No. 3 in a good rotation and Pittsburgh will need to look elsewhere for their ace. Keller has a 3.64 ERA, but a 4.28 FIP which isn’t the only thing pointing to regression. 

Keller does a nice job getting soft contact, he is 97th percentile in hard hit rate and 89th in average exit velocity. However, he is 12th percentile in barrel% and has a .425 expected slugging percentage. He’s throwing a cutter most of any pitch and it has an expected slugging percentage of .508. The biggest concern isn’t that he doesn’t miss barrels, it’s that he doesn’t miss bats. Keller has a 24th percentile whiff rate and his sinker is somehow his best put away pitch, 33.3%, but it only has a whiff rate of 6.8%. 

I want to be wrong about this, I love my Pirates and I’ve loved Keller’s growth over the past two years, but I think he’ll get exposed today while Urias shoves. I hate to do it, but I have to take the Dodgers. 

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Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change