Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates Preview and Free Pick – July 9th 2016

Chicago Cubs (52-34) at Pittsburgh (45-42)
When: Saturday, July 9th 2016
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 7:15 ET | TV: FOX

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The surging Pittsburgh Pirates host the stumbling Chicago Cubs in the middle game of their three-game weekend set on Saturday night. The Pirates pulled to within 7.5 games of the first-place Cubs with last night’s 8-4 victory. It was Pittsburgh’s 11th win in their last 14 games while the Cubs have dropped four straight and eight of their last nine. Friday’s win was just the second in 10 games for the Pirates against the Cubs this season. Andrew McCutchen had three hits for the Pirates and raised his average back to .250 for the season. David Freese and Sean Rodriguez homered to help the Pirates. Chicago CF Dexter Fowler (hamstring) began a rehab assignment with Single-A South Bend on Friday and went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. Pirates OF Gregory Polanco left Friday’s game with left hamstring tightness and is day-to-day.

Pitchers: Cubs – Jon Lester (9-4, 2.67 ERA) | Pirates – Chad Kuhl (1-0, 4.09)

Jon Lester will start against the Pirates for the fourth time this season. He is 2-1 in the first three contests, allowing four runs over 18.1 innings with 21 strikeouts. Lester will be without his usual battery mate, as rookie Willson Contreras starts behind the plate with veteran David Ross on the seven-day concussion disabled list. Lester is coming off the shortest outing of his career Sunday against the New York Mets, who ripped him for eight runs and nine hits in just 1.1 innings of work. The eight runs allowed matched Lester’s total over his previous six starts, and he gave up three homers.

Chad Kuhl will make his third career start for the Pirates tonight after Pittsburgh won his first two big-league starts. The rookie recorded his first quality start Saturday at Oakland, holding the A’s to two runs and seven hits over six innings. Kuhl doesn’t produce a lot of strikeouts, but he doesn’t walk many batters – he has issued just 20 free passes in 87.2 innings between Triple-A and the majors this season.

I have to go with the hot team right now. Pittsburgh is hitting and pitching well. No way I can lay 160 on the Cubs right now especially on the road. Take a small shot on the home underdog tonight.

Pick: Pirates +145

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