The Cubs are hoping to salvage the final game of a three-game set in Pittsburgh but let's see where the value lies in our MLB picks this afternoon.
Swinging Johnson – MLB Record (5-3, +3.17 units)
*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.
Every now and again, it's nice to win one that you shouldn't. Actually it's nice to win all of them that you shouldn't but we know that simply doesn't happen. When last I previewed a game in our MLB odds, I postulated that Matty Cain would continue to turn his enigmatic season around with another fine outing. The fact of the matter is that he got torched in the early going but settled down enough to keep the Rockies in check while his offense undid the early damage.
Cain escaped with a win and we cashed a 5 unit maximum play ticket as the Giants rolled to an 8-6 victory. Phew!
Chicago Cubs (18-27, -7.2 units)
The Cubs have gotten edged by the Pirates by only a run in each of the first two games but they are hoping to turn that around as Edwin Jackson takes the bump in the Thursday matinee. Last night it was more heartache for the Cubbies as they got a fine outing from Jeff Samardzija but could not do any damage offensively. They ran into a torrid Francisco Liriano who retired 14 of 15 batters at one point but when the Cubs got on base they simply could not get them home. They are hitting a paltry .218 with runners in scoring position and they lived up to their dubious reputation yesterday after leaving bases jammed.
Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76 ERA) pitched a decent game against the Mets last time out of the box but was victimized by the long ball with David Wright and Daniel Murphy going deep en route to a 3-2 Cubs loss. Jackson, like all of the Cubs starters, cannot get enough run production from his team to escape any mistakes he makes to opposing hitters. The Cubs are 23rd in the league in runs scored and 26th in on base percentage.
Pittsburgh Pirates (28-18, +12.6 units)
Don't look now but the Bucs are 1 ½ games out of first place in the competitive National League Central. Is this one of the signs of the Apocalypse or am I dreaming? Actually the Pirates have a very respectable top of the rotation triumvirate with Liriano, Burnett and Rodriguez. If their offense would follow suit then you'd have a runaway train but as it is, they are getting timely at bats but just not enough production.
Twenty-four-year-old left fielder Starling Marte is doing his part and then some. He is currently leading the team with a .304 batting average with five dingers and ten stolen bases. Though he may not be turning heads nationally with those stats, they are good enough to keep this Pirates team afloat when coupled with some tremendous efforts by the pitching staff.
Speaking of pitching, the Bucs will hand the ball to Jeanmar Gomez who was touched up for four runs (three earned) on five hits in only 4 2/3 innings in his last start. Though he was banished to the showers early the Pirates mounted a rally and defeated the Astros 5-4. Gomez has not lasted more than five innings in any of his starts and is merely a stopgap measure until starter Charlie Morton returns from rehabbing his elbow.
I've got a funny feeling that Pittsburgh's luck is going to run out. They just don't have enough of an offense to continue to eke out wins and get timely breaks. Now that sort of thing happens over time and it's ludicrous to base your MLB picks on a trend you predict will begin to manifest as the season progresses.
That being said, I think there's plenty of evidence that Pittsburgh's starter will be driven from the hill before the fifth inning and that will give the Cubs a clear cut advantage, particularly when you have a veteran pitcher like Edwin Jackson who has traditionally pitched well against the Pirates.Free MLB Picks: Play the Cubs +127 for 2 units at Bet365.com