Pirates vs. Cubs Odds, Preview, Prediction: Back Pittsburgh Against Chicago’s Shaky Bullpen (September 3)

Pirates vs. Cubs Odds, Preview, Prediction: Back Pittsburgh Against Chicago’s Shaky Bullpen (September 3) article feature image
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Picture by Getty Images. Pictured: Steven Brault.

Pirates vs. Cubs Odds

Moneyline +115 / -135
Over/Under 9
Time 2:20 p.m. ET
TV MLB Network
Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings.

The bottom of the National League Central is about as weak as it can get in Major League Baseball. This matchup pits Steven Brault and the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Cubs and Alec Mills in Chicago.

The Cubs are 5-5 in their last 10, so they have at least been playing average ball. The Pirates just lost two to the Chicago White Sox on the south side of town.

Luckily for the Cubs, they’re not contending for a playoff slot, so does Brault give them an edge in the pitching department?

Pittsburgh Pirates

The St. Louis Cardinals massacred Steven Brault the last time he stepped on the mound. So far this season, he has been allowing an average exit velocity of 89.2 MPH. His 47.9% hard hit percentage, although entirely in the month of August, is concerning, too.

The Cubs have plenty of players who can hit the four-seam fastball, but they are top-heavy against this pitch. Brault utilizes his fastball about 40% of the time. The Cubs combined xwOBA on this pitch is .315 since July 31, which — given how Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez, and Kris Bryant no longer play for the team — makes sense. Brault just needs to manage to throw five innings and hold the Cubs lineup to three runs or less.

The Pirates have four average-or-better hitters in the lineup against right-handers since the beginning of August. Bryan Reynolds leads that group.

The Pirates do have a strong track record against sinker-ballers, especially in the last month. Since the trade deadline, they hold a .338 xwOBA off of sinkers, which is Alec Mills’ primary pitch. They also only strike out 11.5% of the time, so that gives them a massive edge.

Pittsburgh does have a few arms in their bullpen, though for the most part, they’re pretty subpar. David Bednar, Chad Kuhl, and Duane Underwood, Jr. all have maintained a sub-2.00 ERA over the last month.

Brault can manage five innings, but they will need all hands on deck after him. Expect to see at least see a couple of these bullpen names in the game at one point.


Chicago Cubs

The Cubs send Alec Mills to the mound, who as I stated primarily features a sinker. The Pirates crush sinkers. Since Mills only strikes out 16.6% of hitters, this could give him issues. His best asset is minimizing barrels, but the Pirates will make contact. His xERA of 4.35 is right in line with his ERA, so he has not overachieved. That said, this is a surprising mismatch.

The Cubs lineup is depleted with Rizzo, Báez, and Bryant gone. It gets worse because Willson Contreras is on the injured list, too. This leaves it to Frank Schwindel and company to take the reins.

They do have some success in August against lefties, but the bottom of the lineup is just as weak as the Pirates. They hold a .315 xwOBA off of changeups, in addition to fastballs, so they should struggle with Brault’s secondary pitch, as well.

Finally, the Cubs have the worst bullpen in baseball, since they traded away Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, and Ryan Tepera. Their 6.79 combined ERA since the deadline is about as bad as it gets. They rank 27th in the MLB in that same timeframe in WPA, so late in games they are giving away runs consistently. The Pirates have the advantage in this department.

Pirates-Cubs Pick

The Pirates have an advantage with Brault on the mound, even if he had trouble in his last outing. The Cubs have not shown much success against a pitcher with his arsenal and the Pirates have when it comes to pitchers similar to Mills. The Pirates also get the edge with the bullpens, so take their moneyline at +115, and play to -110.

Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates +115, play to -110

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