NL Wild Card Leader to Extend Gap with the Victory in Game 2

Darin Zank

Saturday, September 26, 2015 12:06 PM GMT

The Pirates grabbed Game 1 of this big series at Wrigley Field, giving this handicapper a big W on our free MLB pick. We go looking for more on Saturday afternoon's Game 2.

Pirates-Cubs Saturday Odds
In the very early betting on this game the best MLB odds we could find on Chicago with Jason Hammel was the -104 at Heritage, while Pittsburgh and lefty Francisco Liriano were getting +101 at 5Dimes.

 

The Situation
To our delight, Pittsburgh took the opener of this series Friday afternoon 3-2, as Gerrit Cole out-dueled Jon Lester. Chicago got the tying run to third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Pirates closer Mark Melancon struck out Jorge Soler and Javier Baez with strike threes in the dirt to end the threat.

With the victory, its seventh in a row, Pittsburgh bumped its lead in the National League wild-card race to 4.5 games over the Cubbies, and picked up a game on St. Louis in the NL Central race, and now trails the Cardinals by just three games.

Chicago, meanwhile, has still won seven of its last ten, and clinched a berth in the NL wild-card game when San Francisco lost late Friday night. If they want to host that wild-card contest the Cubs have to make up five games on the Pirates, with just 11 games left on the schedule.

Chicago now leads this season series 10 games to seven, with the OVERS going 8-7-2.

 

Saturday's Starters
Hammel (9-6, 3.79), by our strict standards, is only nine-for-29 on quality starts this season, and 0 for his last five. Monday he gave up four runs – three earned – in five innings against Milwaukee, and over his last five starts he's allowed 17 earned runs through 24 2/3 innings.

On the season Chicago is 14-15 in Hammel's starts, with the OVERS going 15-14.

In three starts this season against Pittsburgh Hammel has allowed six runs – five earned – through 20 innings; the Pirates managed to lose two of those games, by scores of 2-1 and 4-3, while all three games played UNDER.

Liriano (11-7, 3.41) is 17-for-29 on quality starts this season, running a little hot-'n-cold as of late. Four starts ago he gave up four runs in five innings against Milwaukee; then he threw six innings of shutout ball against Cincinnati, with 10 whiffs; then he gave up five runs in less than three innings against the Brewers; but last time out, last Saturday, he held the Dodgers to two runs through seven innings, with nine strikeouts.

The Pirates are 18-11 in Liriano's starts this season, with the OVERS going 17-8.

In his one start this season against Chicago Liriano gave up three runs through five innings, striking out nine, in a game Pittsburgh eventually lost 9-8 back in April.

 

Saturday's Batting Splits
Pittsburgh ranks fifth in the Bigs this season against right-handed pitching with a .327 team on-base percentage, but only 17th with a .403 team slugging percentage.

Chicago, on the other hand, ranks 15th against left-handed pitching with a .319 team OBP and 23rd with a .376 team slugging percentage.

 

Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at the Friendly Confines this season are 41-33 on the UNDERS, averaging 8.0 runs per.

 

Pirates-Cubs Free Picks
We give Pittsburgh short edges in the pitching match-up, with the sticks and in the bullpen, so we'll add the Pirates to our free MLB picks for Saturday.

MLB Pick: Pittsburgh +101 at 5Dimes.

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