The Cubs halted a 5-game Pirates win streak on Monday, and now Chicago looks to extend its own MLB odds win streak to four when the clubs crank things up in Game 2.
Wednesday's Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Pittsburgh hitters couldn't solve Chicago pitcher Travis Wood while the Cubs wasted little time in getting to Pirates starter Jeff Locke. It was that simple Tuesday evening as the Cubs raced their way to a 6-2 decision over the Bucs, extending their streak to four and getting in position to complete the series sweep.
To do so, the Cubs have to overcome the MLB odds as small underdogs and top a pitcher they've never beaten before. First pitch at Wrigley Field is set for 8:05 PM (ET) and to be delivered by the right arm belonging to Kyle Hendricks. Pittsburgh counters with young stud Gerrit Cole, and GT Bets has the Pirates at -117. Look for a total later this morning on SBR's live MLB odds.
Bucs Task Cole With Salvaging Series Finale
After the Bucs dropped his first start of the season in Cincinnati, Cole has rebounded with three consecutive victories, allowing just one earned run in each outing. He worked into the eighth in Arizona last Friday, exceeding the 100-pitch plateau for the first time in 2015 and striking out seven along the way.
Cole missed facing Chicago last week in Pittsburgh, which was good news for the Cubs since the former UCLA standout is a perfect 5-0 in as many starts against them over his brief career. He has benefited from strong offense in his three assignments at Wrigley where his ERA is 4.00 (18 IP).
Hendricks enjoyed a pretty fine spring, but that hasn't followed him into the regular season with just one quality start and a 5.74 ERA in three appearances. He has yet to decision in any of the assignments, including last week when the Pirates touched Hendricks up for three runs before he left one out into the sixth. That was the first time he'd faced Pittsburgh in his short career.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Crew chief Dale Scott is slated to call balls and strikes in the finale, his fifth plate assignment of 2015 with each of the previous four going 'over' the totals. Now in his 30th full season at the MLB level, each of Scott's last three games under the mask on Chicago's North Side fell short of the MLB odds.
There is a 20% chance of showers beginning this afternoon in Chicago, but they shouldn't keep Scott and his umpires from getting the game in. It's going to be on the chilly side of things with temps hovering in the mid-to-upper 40s compounded by an 8-10 mph blow from the north (in from left).
When two streaks collide -- Cole's 5-0 mark vs. Cubs and Chicago's 4-game win streak -- I generally go with the home team for my free pick, and that's just how I'm playing it Wednesday.
MLB Pick: Cubs +115 at Pinnacle
Tuesday's Game 2
By: Willie Bee
An all-around performance is what the Chicago Cubs showed us on Monday with a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of their series. Jason Hammel handled the mound chores with eight shutout frames, and each of the first four hitters in Joe Maddon's lineup collected two hits, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant each driving in a pair of runs to account for all the offense Chicago would need.
The victory left the Cubs just a game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central heading into Tuesday's matchup (8 PM ET). It's a double-southpaw duel between Jeff Locke of Pittsburgh and Chicago's Travis Wood, current MLB betting odds listing the Cubs as -120 to -125 chalk and the total yet to be released.
Rested Wood Looks To Hand Locke 1st Loss
Locke had the luxury of facing the impotent Milwaukee lineup each of his first two starts this season, winning each time with a combined 14 innings pitched and three runs allowed. His control was a bit off last Thursday against the Cubs, and he only made it through the fifth inning of the finale in that series before manager Clint Hurdle summoned his bullpen.
Pittsburgh rallied late to bail Locke out, the club's third win in as many assignments for the 27-year-old. The Bucs have dropped both of his appearances at Wrigley Field, the last one in 2013, and Locke has walked eight in 10 innings off this mound while allowing six runs.
Wood has enjoyed some extra rest, last climbing the hill a week ago in Game 2 at Pittsburgh. The Little Rock native served up a couple of homers in his five innings of work, not figuring into the decision of what became a 9-8 Chicago victory. The Cubs have split his last 10 starts vs. the Pirates, Wood striking out 50 in nearly 54 frames while holding Pittsburgh hitters to a .222 average.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Half of this umpire crew ranks among my least favorite field arbiters in the game today, and one of them will have the plate for Game 2. Dan Iassogna is calling balls and strikes for the sixth time this year, three of the previous five never making it to the totals. Two of those three 'under' winners were games in Milwaukee where the Brewers are really stinking it up on offense, and home teams have yet to win a game with Iassogna under the mask after going 21-9 in his dish assignments a year ago.
The same clear and crisp forecast we saw Monday is in the works for Tuesday's tilt. The good news for fans inside the friendly confines is there won't be much breeze at all to chill the mid-to-upper 40s temperatures slated for the contest. The Cubs looked mighty fine on Monday, and I like them again as my free MLB pick tonight.
MLB Pick: Cubs -121 at BetOnline
Monday's Game 1
By: Willie Bee
It has only been a few days since the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs last tangled with each other, and they'll have a chance to get reacquainted to begin the fourth week of the MLB betting campaign. As we've seen often in the past, familiarity can breed contempt, setting up a potentially hard-fought series between the old rivals who currently sit deadlocked for second place in the NL Central.
The series gets underway Monday evening (8 PM ET) at Wrigley Field with the Cubs slight favorites behind Jason Hammel. MLB betting odds went out with Chicago around -125 on the moneyline, and there hasn't been much movement on that number. Pittsburgh counters with Vance Worley, and as usual on Chicago's North Side, a total will be released later.
They concluded a 4-game series in Pittsburgh last Thursday, the Cubs winning the first two and the Bucs taking the final pair. Totals ran in the 7-7½ range, two of the contests going 'over' with another pushing the mark.
It's a rivalry that began in 1887 when the squads were known as the Alleghenys and White Stockings. Pittsburgh leads the series 1,251-1,175 with 17 more games tied or suspended. The Pirates have beaten up on the Cubs pretty soundly the last two years (26-12), Chicago's last season-series triumph coming in 2009. The Iron City 9 have also won 5-straight at Wrigley, seven of the nine in Chi-Town a year ago finishing on the high side of the totals.
Worley & Hammel Set For Quick Rematch
The third game in last week's series at PNC Park saw these same starting pitchers on the mound, Worley getting the best of Hammel by a 4-3 count, one of three 1-run games in that set. Worley pitched into the sixth allowing one unearned run before needing help from his bullpen, Tony Watson tossing the final two frames for the save. Hammel went five and allowed all four Pirate runs, one of them unearned.
That was the fifth time Worley has faced the Cubs in his career, dating back to his days with the Phillies, and his teams are a perfect 5-0 in those matchups while the bespectacled California native pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA. That clip jumps almost a full run in his three assignments at Wrigley.
Hammel hasn't had that much success against the Pirates over his career, a resume that includes eight starts now and a relief outing vs. the Bucs while a member of the Rays in 2008. He lost that game out of the 'pen, leaving his squads 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA (51.1 IP).
Pirates Reach Windy City On 5-Game Run
Winning the last two from the Cubs last week started a 5-game win streak for the Pirates. Pittsburgh began a 9-game roadie last Friday in the desert, sweeping three from Arizona while holding the Diamondbacks to just two runs the entire weekend. After losing four of their first five this year, the Pirates have won 10 of 14 with a lot of help from a mound crew that ranks third in the NL with a 3.07 ERA,
Chicago wrapped up its road trip in Cincinnati over the weekend, winning two of the games with the other postponed due to rain. Offense has been the strength for this team, the Cubs second in the National League with a .325 team on-base mark and paced by the duo of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
Rain shouldn't interrupt this series, all three games being played under the lights at Wrigley Field, but while skies should be clear, it is going to be on the chilly side. The thermometer is going to be in the mid-40s at first pitch with an 8-10 mph North wind blowing in from left throughout the game.
Worley's success against the Cubs and Pittsburgh's little win streak would normally make the Bucs an easy choice for my free MLB picks, but something tells me Game 1 belongs to the home team.
MLB Pick: Cubs -125 at Pinnacle Sports
Season: 14-13 (+0.30)