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Pirates can win this game

Times Staff Writer

Over the first half of the major league baseball season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been the league’s steadiest team when it comes to over/under combined run total bets.

Featuring a combination of poor pitching and sneaky home run power, the Pirates led the majors with 53 over wins before their game against Houston on Tuesday night.

The Florida Marlins had the second-most over wins with 52 but only four teams in the league had more than 45 as of Tuesday.

For the Pirates, everything starts and ends with a suspect pitching staff, with the major’s worst team earned-run average at 5.17 a game.

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Keeping the ball inside the park and preventing big innings have been Pittsburgh’s two biggest problems.

Before Tuesday, the Pirates had given up a whopping 102 home runs and allowed 10 or more runs in a game 13 times.

Pittsburgh’s most reliable pitcher? Probably left-handed starter Paul Maholm, with a 5-5 record and a team-best ERA of 4.05.

But it’s not just inconsistent pitching that makes the Pirates a strong over/under play. Pittsburgh’s bats have also had an impact.

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The Pirates, who have a solid .260 team batting average, rank among the best in the National League with 90 home runs and 178 doubles, led by Jason Bay (17 homers) and Nate McLouth (29 doubles).

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After heading into the season as a longshot to win this year’s World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays have been upgraded to legitimate contenders.

Tampa Bay, which was listed at 150-1 in March, is now at 8-1 according to VegasInsider.com. Only Boston (11-4), the Chicago Cubs (3-1) and the Angels (11-2) have better odds than the Rays.

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Tennis

Early odds for this year’s U.S. Open have Roger Federer listed as a 6-5 favorite to win the men’s singles championship, according to Bodoglife.com.

Rafael Nadal, who has defeated Federer in the finals at Wimbledon and the French Open this year, is listed with 5-2 odds.

On the women’s side, Maria Sharapova is the favorite at 11-4, followed by Serena Williams at 3-1, Ana Ivanovic at 7-2 and Venus Williams at 5-1.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com


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