The Pirates will be gunning for their fourth straight win when they host the Cubs in game one of a hugely important divisional series. Let's examine the MLB odds that are on offer.
With Cole and Jason Hammel taking the bump, runs could be at a premium tonight, and oddsmakers have the O/U pinned at 7.5 runs, one of the lower totalson the board for Tuesday.
Pittsburgh Pirates (Cole)
Coming off a great week, the Pirates would love to keep momentum going with a win in this series opener versus Chicago. Pittsburgh has won three straight and five of six heading into tonight, with the Pirates now 86-56 overall for the season, which puts them 2.5 games back of the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.
Even better, Pittsburgh has an excellent chance of making it four wins in a row, considering ace Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound. He's been stellar in 2015, going 16-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, and he's coming off an outstanding effort in his most recent assigment; Cole held St. Louis to only two hits over seven scoreless innings, on the road no less.
Having gone 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA over 13 home starts, Cole is in a good spot to succeed again this evening. He's fared well against the Cubs so far this season, surrendering 10 hits and three runs (two earned) over two starts spanning 12 innings (with a 16:2 K:BB ratio). With so much on the line, you'd have to think Cole will rise to the occasion in his third meeting with Chicago tonight.
Chicago Cubs (Hammel)
The Cubs are in the middle of a heated playoff race, so losing the last two games of their recent series in Philadelphia was pretty disappointing. Still, Chicago has gone a very solid 7-3 over its last 10 games, and the Cubs are now at 82-60 for the season.
Tonight we'll see Jason Hammel get the call. He's 8-6 with a 3.59 ERA on the season, but he has struggled a lot more over the second half of the season after posting a 2.86 ERA prior to the All-Star break. Over the second half, Hammel has a 5.11 ERA in a 10-start span, making him a much riskier proposition to trust. The right-hander has really struggled to eat up innings, having not gone seven innings in any start since the first week of July.
Hammel has, at least, done well versus Pittsburgh this season. He's allowed 10 hits and four runs (three earned) with a nice 12:0 K:BB ratio in two meetings, and he'll be hoping to find similar success against the Pirates this evening. On the road, Hammel is 6-4 with a 3.42 ERA over 13 assignments.
To be honest, we're a little surprised the odds are so reasonable.
We've seen the Pirates play some of their best baseball of the season lately. When you throw in the fact they're at home and will be sending out their ace to the bump, it's hard not to like Pittsburgh in this spot. Both of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives, so motivation isn't a factor, but we trust Cole a lot more than we do Hammel at this point in the season.
So, with our MLB picks, we're going to take on the small level of chalk and side with Pittsburgh to earn the straight up victory, thus pushing their winning streak to four games. Back Cole and the Pirates this evening.
MLB Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates -115 at 5Dimes