The Chicago Cubs visit Pittsburgh for a four-game series beginning Thursday. For Chicago, it’s a chance to boost their playoff chances. The Cubs trail Milwaukee for the NL Central lead by 3.5 games but are one of six teams within two games of a wild card berth. The Pirates are still battling and are going to improve on last year’s 62-100 record. Steady improvement is all you can ask for out of a team like Pittsburgh. The Cubs vs Pirates series preview notes the Pirates are 27-51 when playing teams above .500. The Cubs are 37-24 against teams under .500.
Chicago tied for second in the NL Central’s MLB standings 2023 with a 66-60 record. The Cubs aren’t bad on the road, going 31-30. The Pirates are in fourth place in the NL Central with a 57-50 record. The Pirates are 31-33 at home, so Pittsburgh battles in front of the home fans.
The Cubs’ strength so far this season has been the offense. Chicago is No. 5 in team batting average and No. 5 in runs scored. The Cubs are No. 11 in slugging percentage, so it’s more a case of the team getting clutch hits when they need them. Former Dodger Cody Bellinger leads the Cubs with 67 RBI, which places him at No. 41 among the MLB stats leaders. The Cubs are No. 16 in team ERA and have converted 26 of 37 save opportunities.
The Pirates are No. 26 in team batting average and No. 23 in runs scored. Pittsburgh doesn’t have much home run power but is No. 11 in doubles. The Pirate pitching staff is No. 21 in team ERA and has converted 34 of 49 save opportunities.
Location: PNC Park
The Cubs are going to start their ace, Justin Steele. Steele is 14-3 on the season with a 2.80 ERA. The Cubs are 16-7 when he starts. Pittsburgh has fared better against left-handed pitchers this season, going 18-22 and scoring 4.38 runs. The Pirates are 39-48 against right-handed pitchers, scoring 4.13 runs per game. Pittsburgh hasn’t named its starter yet for the game. It would be Andre Jackson’s turn to start if Pittsburgh sticks to its rotation. Jackson hasn’t been good, but he hasn’t been that bad either. The Cubs are -150 favorites in this one, with the total currently set at 9.0 juiced slightly to the under.
The Cubs vs Pirates series preview shows Kyle Hendricks and Mitch Keller as expected starters on Friday. Henricks is 5-6 with a 3.83 ERA, and Chicago has gone 9-8 in the games he’s started. Keller is 10-8 with a 4.23 ERA. The Pirates are 13-13 when he starts. Based on team records and Hendricks’ ERA, the Cubs should be small favorites here. Pittsburgh is 7-5 at home when Keller starts and does offer a little value at plus money in this spot.
The Cubs vs Pirates series preview shows Pittsburgh hasn’t named its starter for this one. Ryan Borucki followed Keller in the rotation last time out. He’s primarily a relief pitcher, so if he goes, it will likely be just for an inning or two. He’s pitched well since the Pirates picked him up after he was released by the Cubs earlier this year. The Cubs will start Javier Assad, who is 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA. He’s another pitcher who has worked primarily out of the bullpen this season. Assad slowly stretched out his innings pitched and has lasted between 5 1/3 and 7 innings in his last three starts. He’s transitioned to a starter quite well and is tough to go against in this spot.
The series finale will be played in the sunshine, as it’s one of four contests with MLB game times of 1:35 p.m. EST. The Cubs are sending Drew Smyly to the mound to face Bailey Falter. Smyly is 9-9 on the season despite an unsightly ERA of 5.28. The Cubs have gone 10-12 in the games he’s started but are 14-7-1 in totals. The Cubs are 4-8 when Smyly starts on the road this season and 7-5 in totals. Falter is 1-7 with a 4.53 ERA and the Pirates are 3-7 when he starts, winning his last two outings. He hasn’t pitched as poorly as his record indicates but hasn’t gotten much run support. The Pirates are averaging 3.2 runs when he starts and are 3-7 in totals. The Pirates could be worth a look here.Follow us on Twitter
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