Chicago Cubs (97-65) at Pittsburgh (98-64)
When: Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 8:05 ET
TV: TBS Radio: XM 89
The second and third best teams will meet in Pittsburgh tonight to decide who will advance to the National League Division Series and face the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates finished 98-64 in the regular season and will be playing in their third straight Wild Card elimination game. They lost to San Francisco last year and beat the Reds in 2013 before falling to the Cardinals. The Pirates managed to win 2 out of their last 3 against Cincinnati over the weekend to avoid having to play this game in Wrigley Field. Strong pitching and clutch hitting have been what’s led the Pirates all year. They rank 3rd in team ERA and 9th in batting average in all of baseball. Pittsburgh will go with their ace tonight, Gerrit Cole. The All-Star has won his last 4 decisions including a 3-2 win at Chicago just two starts ago. Cole has some postseason experience when he started two games as a rookie in 2013. He is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. In nine career starts against the Cubs, Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA with 32 K’s in 25+ innings. The Pirates boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. In 450 relief innings, the Pittsburgh ‘pen has a 2.46 ERA. Closer Mark Melancon leads the way with 51 saves in 53 opportunities.
The Chicago Cubs run to the postseason has come a year earlier than expected. Their ascent this season is one step in a process started when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office, and the team they built is loaded with young talent on offense like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo and Bryant have a combined 57 homeruns and exactly 200 RBI. Schwarber added another 16 HR’s in just 69 games. The problem with those guys and the rest of the Cubs is that they strikeout a lot and have the second to last batting average in MLB of .244. Lots of strikeouts and a poor batting average is why they struggle against Cole. The Cubs couldn’t have a better pitcher on the mound in an elimination game than Jake Arrieta. He will be strongly considered for the N.L. Cy Young this year. He’s been almost perfect in his last three starts surrendering 6 hits, 0 runs, and 27 strikeouts in 22 innings. In fact, he’s only allowed 2 earned runs in his last 9 starts. Amazing. In his 5 starts against the Pirates this year, Arrieta is 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA over 36 innings. This is why the total is set at 5.5 tonight.
Boy, you talk about a pitchers duel. It’s really a coin flip on who will win this game. The Cubs have the pitching edge, but the can they score enough to win? They are a young team who’s never been in this spot and they strikeout a lot. Pitching seems to take over in the postseason and tonight won’t be any different. As low as this total is, I really don’t see more than 5 runs being scored here tonight. I’ll take a shot at the under in this one.
Pick: Under 5.5 +110