06/19/2012 - Pittsburgh, PA (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run on Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Pirates took down the Minnesota Twins, 7-2, in the opener of a three-game interleague series at PNC Park.
Josh Harrison crushed a solo home run among his three hits and scored three times, while Clint Barmes added three hits, including an RBI double for the Pirates, winners in three consecutive games. Pedro Alvarez contributed two hits for the victors.
Kevin Correia (3-6) tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the victory. He scattered four hits to go with a walk and two strikeouts. Juan Cruz allowed two runs in the seventh, but Chris Resop sealed the win with two scoreless innings in relief.
Denard Span accounted for the only runs of the night with a two-run homer for the Twins, who have dropped five of their last six games. Trevor Plouffe added two hits in the loss.
Scott Diamond (5-3) yielded four runs on eight hits with a strikeout and two walks in defeat.
Pittsburgh jumped on top in its first at-bat and never looked back when Harrison squared up a changeup from Diamond and sent it just over the wall in left field for the 1-0 advantage.
Minnesota put the tying run on base in the third when Jamey Carroll began the frame with a base hit and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Diamond. Carroll then advanced to third on a groundout by Span, but was left there when Ben Revere grounded out to end the inning.
Harrison slapped a one-out single in the Pittsburgh fifth and stole second. McCutchen followed with a walk and both runners advanced on a double steal. Casey McGehee lofted a fly ball to center, which allowed Harrison to tag and score to extend the Pirates' lead to 2-0.
Revere drew a one-out walk, stole second and Josh Willingham knocked a base hit up the middle to put runners on the corners, sending Correia to the clubhouse for the night. Watson came out of the bullpen and got Justin Morneau to fly out before walking Plouffe to load the bases for Ryan Doumit, but the Twins catcher couldn't capitalize on a chance to burn his former team as he struck out to end the inning.
Pittsburgh added two extra insurance runs in the sixth. Alvarez led off the inning with a base hit and came around to score on a double by Barmes, who then trotted home on a sacrifice fly by Matt Hague later in the inning to make it a four-run contest.
The Twins got back in the game in the seventh when Brian Dozier got on with a single and Span smashed a fastball from Cruz into the seats in right to cut the deficit in half.
But the Bucs got three runs back in the home seventh to cap the scoring courtesy of a two-run shot from McCutchen and a Rod Barajas sacrifice fly.
The Twins fell to 13-18 on the road this season and 9-32 when allowing first run of the game...Tuesday marked Doumit's first game against his former club since signing with the Twins in the offseason...Pittsburgh improved to 12-3 at home since May 12 -- the best mark in baseball over that span...These teams have not met since the Twins took two of three at The Metrodome in 2009...Minnesota went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
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Michael Vick is back, Brett Favre isn't and the NFC East remains the best division in the NFC, maybe in all of football.
As players start to gather for the start of another season, some things change and some stay the same in the world of the NFL.
The NFC East has been the dominant division in the National Conference for a while, despite limited playoff success, save for the New York Giants surprise Super Bowl win two seasons ago.
Hell, there's a generation of kids in Texas who have never seen the Cowboys win a playoff game (last win was in 1996).
But collectively, the Giants, Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins (well, maybe not so much the Redskins) are as good as a division gets in an NFC conference that has struggled to stay competitive with the AFC side.
Sports bettors have both acknowledged the NFC East's dominance, as one glance at the NFL future odds menu will show.
Looking over the NFL betting odds at online sports book MySportsbook.com we see the top three teams listed to win the NFC Championship are all from the NFC East:
Dallas Cowboys - 7 - 1
Philadelphia Eagles - 13 - 2
New York Giants - 9 - 2
Slotting in behind these three are two teams from the NFC North: the Minnesota Vikings (15-2) and the Chicago Bears (10-1).
Again, despite the lack of recent playoff success, the Dallas Cowboys are popular with the sports betting community, as they hold 14% of all the money wagered on who will win the NFC Championship.
So far, the New York Giants are the bettors' favorite to represent their conference in the Super Bowl, as they have 24% of the overall NFC Championship betting volume.
And what about the Philadelphia Eagles? For the most part, the Eagles had a very productive offseason, the kind that could bring them back to the top.
They had a good draft adding the likes of WR Jeremy Maclin and RB LeSean McCoy.
Unfortunately, the team received a blow when long-time defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away on Tuesday.
But this team will make a real run at the division title this year. Going into the regular season, Philly is listed at +240 to win the division.
Last season the Eagles were 9-6-1 SU and 10-6 ATS.
Teams from the NFC East will play teams from the AFC West in the regular season and the Eagles haven't really been a good bet in the last 20 games against the likes of San Diego, Oakland, K.C. and Denver, only going 8-12 ATS.
Two seasons removed from that Super Bowl title, the New York Giants see themselves listed as the odds-on favorite in NFC East championship futures at +162.
Plaxico Burress is gone and with him all the bad publicity surrounding the gun in the sweatpants incident, but can they replace him in the offense?
Last season the Giants were a very reliable bet going 12-4 ATS.
In the Giants' last 20 games against fellow teams from the NFC East; they are 13-7 ATS.
Dallas is listed at +240 to win the division.
Dallas went 9-7 SU and 7-9 ATS last season and with the amount of talent the Cowboys have, a similar performance won't do.
The Cowboys have been atrocious against divisional rivals, going 6-14 ATS in their last 20.
The Washington Redskins are longshots to win the division at +550.