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MLB Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Pirates vs. Cubs (April 1, 2021)

MLB Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Pirates vs. Cubs (April 1, 2021) article feature image

Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Willson Contreras.

  • The Cubs are a big favorite over the lowly Pirates on MLB's Opening Day (2:20 p.m. ET). The total has been set at 6.5 with the wind blowing in strongly at Wrigley Field.
  • Jeff Hicks is taking the Cubs at the right price, and thinks Chicago is slightly undervalued as a whole this season, but not against Pittsburgh on Thursday.
  • Get his full Cubs vs. Pirates pick and preview below.

Pirates vs. Cubs Odds

Pirates Odds +180
Cubs Odds -210
Over/Under 6.5
Time Thursday, 2:20 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via DraftKings

The Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to be one of, if not the worst team in baseball in 2021. This is made apparent by books choosing not to put up full betting lines across the market. At the time of publication, it is moneyline or bust for the season opener for these two National League Central foes.

Part of that surely has to do with the weather forecast at Wrigley, which calls for temperatures in the mid-30s and the wind blowing in from left at 15 mph. This will affect the total. The moneyline, though, is already among the biggest disparities on the slate, and that will likely be the case more often than not for the Pirates this season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

There is not much to like in Pittsburgh this season. The roster is flushed with mediocrity aside from NL Rookie of the Year candidate Ke’Bryan Hayes and pitcher Kyle Crick’s frisbee slider. Their Opening Day matchup against Kyle Hendricks is not ideal despite “The Professor” rarely throwing his fastball harder than 90 mph consistently.

Not surprisingly, Hendricks has been superb against the Pirates throughout his career. In 19 starts and 107 1/3 innings, Hendricks has a 3.02 ERA. He faced them twice in 2020 and allowed just three total runs in 13 2/3 combined innings, with nine strikeouts and three walks.

Starting for Pittsburgh is Chad Kuhl, who has to be one of the more unlikely Opening Day starters in recent memory. And his selection speaks to the general mediocrity of the Pirates’ roster. Kuhl missed all of 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, and returned in 2020 with perfectly replacement-level form.

The fact that he was healthy had to please the Pirates, and he missed bats at a decent rate (8.5 K/9) but he didn’t always know where the ball was going, walking more than five batters per nine while pitching to a 4.27 ERA in 46 1/3 innings.

Even if the Pirates find a way to score runs against Hendricks, there is little evidence Kuhl will be able to shut down the Cubs offense. Chicago averaged 4.42 runs per game last year, and that came with many of its star players having below-average seasons.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have had little trouble against Kuhl, winning nine of 12 games he has started against them in his career. The Pirates also had the second-worst win probability as a pitching staff in 2020 according to FanGraphs and did very little to convince the baseball world they could be better in 2021.

People forget that the Cubs won the NL Central last year in large part because of a dreadful offseason. Despite the moves (and non-moves), Chicago still has an excellent group of offensive talent in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and 2020 breakout Ian Happ. All but Happ hit below .255 and the offense still managed to be league average.

It is also difficult to account for how much of 2020’s shortened season caused the bad and good seasons of players. For at least one game, it is reasonable to imagine the Cubs getting the job done against the Pirates, and the public agrees. The Cubs are getting 76% of bets at the time of publication.

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Pirates-Cubs Pick

The issue in this game is deciding if the Cubs’ moneyline is worth the juice. A majority of sportsbooks have pushed the number past -200.

The lack of a total at time of publication limits our options, but regardless, it’s clear that the Pirates are going to be really bad the the Cubs will be somewhere between competent and good.

The Cubs should get the job done, but the current odds don’t give us the value we’re looking for to make a play. If it comes down to the -180 range, a Cubs moneyline play is the one to make.

Pick: Cubs ML (-180 or better)

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