A couple of NL Central dregs meet up in this series, as the 26-43 Chicago Cubs play the 28-40 Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates have actually played competent baseball at times. They won three straight before falling to the Cubs on Wednesday, and currently sit 12 games under .500.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have played awful this season. They brought in some veteran playmakers but haven’t put anything together. And the team is reeling since Seiya Suzuki has been hurt.
So, after the Cubs won game one in dominant fashion, who has the edge in this one?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Thursday’s matchup.
Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates Odds
100-200 words on the odds and how you think the game will play out
Justin Steele has been better than expected this season, so the Cubs are rightful favorites in this spot.
But, I think it would be unwise to underestimate the Pirates with Jose Quintana on the mound. Especially as home underdogs coming off a loss, which is a perfect spot to bet on any team.
Chicago Cubs Starting Lineup
CF C. Morel R
DH W. Contreras R
RF P. Wisdom R
C Y. Gomes R
3B J. Villar S
LF I. Happ S
SS N. Hoerner R
1B P.J. Higgins R
2B A. Simmons R
Chicago Cubs vs Jose Quintana
Quintana is due for a lot of negative regression. His 3.66 ERA is paired with an xERA close to 5.00, even though he hasn’t actually allowed a huge exit velocity this season.
He’s just getting barrelled up a lot while stranding more runners than usual. Quintana hasn’t been bad, but he will certainly allow more runs as the season progresses.
The question is if the Cubs can take advantage of that?
It’s tough to say. The Cubs basically field a league-average offense, with catcher Willson Contreras leading the way (12 HR, 153 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR). They’ve been slightly better than average the last month (103 wRC+) but haven’t been deadly.
Contreras is the best catcher in baseball. He leads all catchers in fWAR (2.5) and his .242 ISO is elite.
I’m not sure when Suzuki will see the field again. It seems the NL ROY is going to be O’Neil Cruz’s to lose now.
Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Lineup
3B K. Hayes R
CF B. Reynolds S
1B M. Chavis R
DH D. Vogelbach L
RF D. Castillo R
LF J. Suwinski L
2B Y. Chang R
SS O. Cruz L
C T. Heineman S
Pittsburgh Pirates vs Justin Steele
After nine years of toiling in the Cubs Minor League organization, Steele is proving himself a capable MLB starter.
His 4.27 ERA looks high at first, but he allowed seven earned over just two innings a couple of starts back against Cincinnati and that’s inflated his numbers. In reality, he pairs that mediocre ERA with a 3.38 xERA and a 3.46 FIP.
Steele might even be undervalued in the betting markets because squares will see his ERA and flock towards the other side.
So, you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates. You have one of the worst all-around rosters in baseball and your lineup has posted the fifth-lowest OPS over the past month.
What do you do?
Call up O’Neil Cruz, of course! The roster’s No. 1 overall prospect and the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball is finally playing in the big leagues and has quickly become the favorite to win NL ROY following a four-RBI night on Monday.
It’s even sweeter for Pirates fans he got called up during a series with the Cubs since Cubs fans have been heralding Seiya Suzuki as the next big thing.
Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates Pick & Prediction
My picks: Pittsburgh Pirates ML (+102 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
This is too good of a situational spot to pass up. The Pirates are an undervalued home underdog that just lost the first game of a series.
Steele is the better pitcher, but Quintana can hang with him through the first half of this game. And from an all-around perspective, the Pirates are the better team with the better record.
I’m willing to catch plus-money with Pittsburgh considering the whole picture. But I would advise staying away if you have to bet anything worse than +100.