Cubs Will Edge Pirates in Matinee Pitchers’ Duel at Wrigley

kyle hendricks

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 13, 2017 10:45 PM GMT

It looks to be a terrific pitching matchup Friday afternoon (2:20 ET) at the Friendly Confines when the Chicago Cubs welcome their NL Central rival Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this season. Don’t expect many runs but some raindrops.

MLB Season Record: 3-3

Pittsburgh Pirates At Chicago Cubs

Every so-called expert said there was no way the Cubs would top last year’s 103 wins. Chicago’s win total at sportsbooks entering the season was 95.5. I’m not here to say this team will go 110-52 or something, but the Cubbies are playing .667 ball (.640 in 2016) and haven’t lost a series yet. They took two of three to open the season in St. Louis, two of three in Milwaukee and then, to open this week, two of three at home against the Dodgers in an NLCS rematch. Cubs pitchers allowed only four runs in the three games.

That’s not to say everything is perfect at the moment. The Cubs are hitting just .244 as a team with five homers. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist is 5-for-27. Javier Baez is hitting .211, Kyle Schwarber .212, Kris Bryant .229 and Anthony Rizzo .243. When those guys get going, look out.

On the “First Manager to be Fired” prop at BookMaker entering the season, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle was among the MLB betting favorites. His seat is getting a bit warm with the Bucs (3-6) on a four-game losing streak. They have been swept twice, by Boston and Cincinnati, but did sweep Atlanta. The Pirates were supposed to be off Thursday but had to travel to Boston for a makeup game that was originally rained out April 6. The Pittsburgh bullpen blew it Thursday, allowing three runs in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 loss.

A bright spot Thursday was Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen tying Barry Bonds for fourth on Pittsburgh's all-time list HR with his first dinger of the season. Those two have 176. McCutchen won’t be catching the franchise leader at 475, which is Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. The Pirates are hitting much worse than the Cubs, batting .226 overall with only four homers.

 

Probable Pitchers

No total as of this writing because Cubs home games don’t get a total until a few hours before game time when the direction of the winds (if any) can be determined. This one figures to be around 7 if the wind isn’t a factor. The Pirates go with young ace right-hander Gerrit Cole (0-1, 6.55). Those numbers don’t look great because Cole was hit hard in his season debut in Boston. He threw a quality start last time out vs. the Braves, allowing three runs in six innings.

Cole loves Wrigley Field, going 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA in seven starts. Last year, Cole was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA overall vs. the Cubs in two starts. Rizzo hits him well, going 8-for-23 with three doubles career. Bryant is 3-for-13 with six strikeouts. The only current Cub who has gone yard off Cole is Baez, and that’s his only hit in nine at-bats. He might not even be in there Friday as Joe Maddon tends to sit him against tough right-handers and play Ben Zobrist at second.

It’s reigning NL ERA champion Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs. He admitted he wasn’t feeling sharp in his season debut last Saturday in Milwaukee, going six innings and allowing four runs and five hits over six innings. He had a long break between his final spring start and that one.

Hendricks was 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 games at Wrigley Field in 2016. Overall, he was 3-0 with a spectacular 0.47 ERA in three starts vs the Pirates.  They had one run and 21 strikeouts in 19 innings. McCutchen is 2-for-13 off Hendricks with six strikeouts.

 

Key Trends

The Pirates are 1-5 on MLB picks in Cole’s past six road starts. The Cubs are 6-1 in Hendricks’ past seven during Game 1 of a series. They are 5-0 in his past five vs. Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 0-6 in their past six at Wrigley.

MLB Free Pick: Cubs -178Best Line Offered: Heritage

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