The National League Cy Young favorite Jake Arrieta is on the hill for the Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game, but his opponent Gerrit Cole of the Pirates could possibly match him!
If you like great pitching, then you will probably like the National League Wild Card Playoff Game very much Wednesday night when the hottest pitcher on the planet Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs (97-65, 48-33 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander and a 19-game winner in his own right in Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64, 53-28 home) at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA at 8:05 ET in a game televised nationally on TBS.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 5½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -108.
Second and Third Best Records in Baseball
These two teams had the second and third best records in the Major Leagues, but since they have the terrible misfortune to be in the same National League Central Division as the only team to win 100 games this year, the St. Louis Cardinals, they are being forced to play this single winner-take-all Wild Card Game with the winner than facing those Cardinals in the NLDS.
The Pirates were in second place for virtually the entire season, but they slumped over the last couple of weeks of the season and nearly blew second place at the worst possible time, having to win their final game of the year over the Cincinnati Reds to finally clinch that spot and thus hold their home field advantage for this game.
The Cubs on the other hand finished strong as the winning MLB picks in their last eight games in a row, keeping the pressure on Pittsburgh and very nearly getting this game at Wrigley Field. Chicago fell short in that quest but the Cubs still have great momentum entering their first post-season game since getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS.
Not Enough Superlatives for Arrieta
Arrieta appears to have overtaken Zack Greinke as the favorite to win the National League Cy Young, as he finished at 22-6 with a scintillating 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 236 strikeouts in 229 innings vs. only 48 walks, and that is not to mention having a no-hitter to his credit! Also relevant in regards to this contest is that Arrieta was actually better on the road during the regular season, where he posted a 1.60 ERA while yielding a batting average of .186.
And not even any of that pays justice to the fact that Arrieta may currently be on the best 20-game pitching run in the history of baseball. During that span, Jake is 16-1 personally with the Cubs as a team going 18-2, as he posted a video-game like 0.86 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 147 strikeouts vs. just 27 walks plus two home runs allowed in 147 innings. Moreover, Arrieta has allowed a grand total of four runs in his last 12 stats with nine scoreless outings.
Cole Not Exactly Chopped Liver
So surely, Arrieta is a lock in this game, right? Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!” You see, his mound opponent Cole is usually the pitcher that towers over his opponent statistically as opposed to the afterthought that he mistakenly appears to be here.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that Cole finished tied for second in the National League in wins this season while going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 202 strikeouts vs. 44 walks in 208 innings, which are truly ace-like numbers and usually good enough to win fairly easily.
So while Cole may not be in the zone Arrieta is in right now, he does not expect to get hit hard here either, especially since he went a perfect four for four in Quality Starts vs. the Cubs this season allowing a total of six earned runs in 31.1 innings with 38 strikeouts vs. five walks. Arrieta may seem impossible to beat these days, but there is also a chance this could be a 0-0 or 1-1 contest late in the game when the bullpens are forced to be called on.
Not Surprising ‘under’ Tendencies
Finally, as you might expect, there is no shortage of ‘under’ trends in this contest. For starters, the ‘under’ is 20-8-6 in Arrieta’s last 34 starts overall, as well as 14-6-1 in Cole’s last 21 starts following a Quality Start. Additionally, the ‘under’ is 8-1-1 in the Cubs’ last 10 games vs. right-handed starters, as well as 7-3 in the Pirates’ last 10 games overall.
While we totally get that 5½ is a very low total, it still may not be low enough for these pitchers is a contest where the first team to score will have a great chance to win, so go ‘under’ the tiny total when Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs visit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game on Wednesday.
MLB Pick: Cubs, Pirates ‘under’ 5½ (-108)