NL Central Rivalry Game: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

NL Central Rivalry Game: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates look to snap a three-game losing skid when they host the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night. The Cubs won the first game of the series Monday afternoon 7-0 and they are -115 favorites to win Tuesday’s contest as well.

The Pirates have fallen six games back in the NL Central, a division that not too long ago had four teams within two games of one another. Pittsburgh has just two wins in their last 10 games. Considering that they’ve played the Padres and Reds during that span, that record is downright atrocious.

The Cubs also went through a minor slump earlier this month, but they seem to be coming out of it. Chicago took two out of three from the Giants over the weekend and looked sharp during Monday’s afternoon game despite playing Sunday night and then having to travel. Chicago is now six games over .500 but still 4.5 games behind the Brewers for first place.

Plan B

The Pirates placed Ivan Nova on the DL with a finger injury on Monday. With Nova scheduled to start Tuesday’s game, rookie Nick Kingham will get the call instead. Kingham is just three starts into his big league career. The first one went well, as the righty tossed seven shutout innings against the Cardinals, allowing just one hit. He’s been less invincible the last two times out, but he’s still 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA over his first three starts.

Of course, Kingham has never faced any of the Cubs hitters. Chicago is one of the highest scoring teams in the National League, so the rookie should have his work cut out for him. As a team, the Cubs have been a little lacking offensively lately, at least before they scored eight runs on Sunday and seven more on Monday. Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber have been particularly productive lately.

Same Old Ace

Opposing the rookie Kingham on Tuesday will be veteran Jon Lester. The lefty had a down year in 2017, but he’s back to being one of the top pitchers in the National League this season. In 10 starts, Lester is 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA. In each of his last three starts, he’s allowed just one run, so he enters Tuesday’s start in great form.

Lester faced the Pirates back in April and had one of his worst starts of the season. He gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings before getting bailed out by his Chicago’s hitters, who put 13 runs on the scoreboard. Despite some trouble in that outing, Lester has good career numbers against most of Pittsburgh’s hitters. The Pirates can try to attack Lester with a fair amount of switch hitters batting right-handed. However, righties actually have a lower batting average this year against Lester than lefties.

Keep on Slipping

The Pirates need someone to step up to help them snap out of their losing ways. But it’s tough to ask Kingham to provide that, especially as he opposing Lester and Chicago’s lineup. The Cubs are only slight favorites, but the matchups in this game all work in their favor, even on the road. Bet on the Cubs -115 to beat the Pirates Tuesday night.