Thursday MLB Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (Sept. 3)

Thursday MLB Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (Sept. 3) article feature image
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Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images. Pictured: Javier Baez (9) and the Chicago Cubs.

  • The Cubs (-170 favorites) and Pirates (+148 underdogs) meet in the third game of their three-game series Thursday afternoon.
  • Chicago's bats have been hot over the past three games, scoring 26 runs over that span. Are they a good bet to keep rolling against the Buccos?
  • Brad Cunningham gives his full game breakdown, including why he's betting on a motivated Cubs team in the early innings.

Cubs vs. Pirates Betting Odds

Cubs Odds -175 [Bet Now]
Pirates Odds +148 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 9.5 (-103/-120) [Bet Now]
First Pitch Thursday, 1:35 p.m. ET

Odds as of Thursday at 12 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


The Cubs will look to extend their lead in the NL Central on Thursday as they send Alec Mills to the mound to take on JT Brubaker and the Pirates. Chicago is going for its fourth straight win, which could put them five games ahead of the Cardinals as we approach the final stretch of the regular season.


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Advanced Stats Glossary

FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP  is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.

wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.

wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.

BaseRuns is a formula designed to estimate how many runs a team would be expected to score (or allow) given their underlying offensive (or defensive) performance. In other words, BaseRuns is a context-neutral run estimator used to evaluate teams. Major League average for an individual batter per game is 0.50 BaseRuns and a for a pitcher its 0.52 BaseRuns per inning.

Cubs Projected Lineup

Chicago is starting to heat up offensively. Over the Cubs’ last six games, they’ve hit a whopping 17 home runs, which has led to a .348 wOBA and 118 wRC+. Ian Happ has been the Cubs best hitter this year, slugging 10 home runs and driving in 22 runs on his way to a .440 wOBA.

The Cubs have done most of their damage against right-handed pitching, checking in at a .337 wOBA and 110 wRC+. They should have no trouble against a below-average right-hander like JT Brubaker.

Cubs Probable Starter

Alec Mills, RHP

Projected & Actual Stats (via Fangraphs)

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Alec Mills has been fine through his first six starts of 2020. He may have a 5.23 ERA, but his xFIP is only 4.59. He’s primarily a fastball-sinker pitcher, but neither pitch has been particularly effective this year, allowing a .272 batting average to opposing hitters. Luckily for Mills, the Pirates have been the worst team in baseball against fastballs and sinkers this season.

Mills has been excelling with his secondary pitches and really should utilize them more often. His changeup, curveball, and slider are allowing under a .200 wOBA. The Pirates have struggled against those three pitches as well, so Mills has a fantastic matchup on Thursday.

Pirates Projected Lineup

The reason the Pirates have the worst record in MLB is because of their offense. They rank dead last in MLB in terms of wOBA (.273) and wRC+ (69). They’ve also been the worst team in the league against right-handed pitching, reporting a .251 wOBA and 54 wRC+. Even though Mills is only an average right-hander, the Pirates haven’t shown any sort of fire power this season.

Pirates Probable Starter

JT Brubaker, RHP 

Projected & Actual Stats (via Fangraphs)

JT Brubaker has been okay through his first 20 innings in the big leagues, posting a 4.50 ERA and 4.56 xFIP. He’s primarily a sinker-ball guy, but his sinker hasn’t been very effective so far, allowing a .375 wOBA to opposing batters. His secondary pitches (slider and curveball) have produced a whiff rate above 33%, but it is a small sample size (161 pitches).

Brubaker is the Pirates’ 28th-ranked prospect, as his AAA numbers weren’t very impressive (over 4.00 xFIP). So the Cubs should have a good matchup against him on Thursday.

Bullpens

Pittsburgh’s bullpen is gassed right now, as the Pirates have deployed their relievers for 14 innings over the past two days. So, if Brubaker isn’t able to pitch deep into the game on Thursday, the Cubs could have a great opportunity to take advantage of a tired bullpen.

Projections and Pick

I think Alec Mills and the Cubs have fantastic matchup on Thursday against the lowly Pirates. However, Chicago’s bullpen issues do give me some pause.  So, I am going to avoid Chicago’s relievers altogether by grabbing the Cubs first five innings spread of -0.5 at -121 (DraftKings) and I would bet it up to -135.

Pick: Cubs First Five Innings -0.5 (-121)

[Bet the Chicago Cubs first five innings -0.5 at -110 Odds with a 10% profit boost at DraftKings (now online in Illinois!)]

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