MLB Betting Picks: Pirates Look To Jump On Butler & Cubs Early

Jay Pryce

Friday, July 7, 2017 1:18 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 7, 2017 1:18 PM UTC

The Pirates and Cubs open their final series before the All-Star break Friday afternoon (2:20 p.m. ET) at Wrigley Field with right-handers Trevor Williams and Eddie Butler set to duel for the second time in three weeks.

Pittsburgh Pirates (40-46)

The Pirates enter their final series before the All-Star break winning three in a row at Philadelphia. They get the chance to claim four straight for just the second time all season at Wrigley Field on Friday. Pittsburgh swept the Cubs in their only visit to the historic ballpark in April, outscoring the World Series champions 18-10 over three games. Prior to that, Pittsburgh was 1-9 in their last 10 visits.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sends Trevor Williams to the hill for the opener. The right-hander, who began the year working relief, is one of the better arms in the Buccos’ rotation of late. Williams has worked five quality starts in his last seven outings. He is 3-3 with a 4.67 ERA in 17 appearances (11 starts).

One area Williams excels is keeping the ball in the park. His 0.87 HR/9 ratio ranks in the top 20 of all MLB pitchers with 70 innings or more. Half of the Pirates’ 40 wins (20-10) have come when not allowing a home run in a game.

Pittsburgh is 6-6 all-time behind Williams as a starter, losing their last four straight. The staff allows 5.17 runs on 9.25 hits per game. Surprisingly, the team has found better success on the road. It is 4-2 at +130 average odds.

 Chicago Cubs (42-43)

A year ago today, the Cubs were 52-33, beating opponents by 1.74 runs per game. Their run differential this season: 0.09. Oddsmakers dangled an over-under of 96.5 wins headed into 2017, highest of all teams. Chicago will have to win 55 of their final 76 games to best the number.

Crossing the plate is the Cubs’ biggest hang-up; their 4.56 runs per game ranks 19th in the majors. No starter with double-digit appearances gets less support than today’s arm Eddie Butler. Butler, 4-3 with a 4.18 ERA in 10 outings, is backed by 3.60 runs per game. The lineup has scored more than 3 runs in a start just three times all season.

Butler is also reliant on the bullpen. The right-hander has pitched through six innings once all year, his only quality start coming in his first appearance of the season back on May 12. Butler needles away at batters and often pitches to soft contact. He has 28 Ks to 24 BBs through 47.1 innings, but has allowed just three round trippers all season.

Betting against the Cubs has netted 15 percent profit this season. Only fading the lowly Phillies and Giants have returned more.


Final Analysis

Williams and Butler dueled on June 16 at PNC Park with the Cubs earning a 9-5 victory. Most of the damage was done in the top of the ninth when Chicago pushed through 6 runs. Williams ceded 3 earned runs, all in the opening frame, on 4 hits in 5.0 innings. Only five of 16 balls put in play traveled over 250 feet. The Pirates lineup, meanwhile, hit Butler hard, knocking eight line drives overall. The ball failed to find the gaps, the right-hander escaping with 4 earned on 4 hits in 5.2 innings. Expect Pittsburgh to get after Butler again here. The Pirates’ rotation has allowed 2 runs or fewer through the first five in 12 of 17 road starts against NL Central opponents this season. Bet the Buccos in the first half at +125 odds.

Free MLB Pick:  Pirates +130Best Line Offered: at Intertops

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