The Chicago Cubs look to get on track when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night. After the Pirates took the opening game of the series on Tuesday 8-5, the Cubs are listed as a -180 favorite to win Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
The Pirates have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball early in the year. They are 8-2 on the young season and a perfect 4-0 on the road after Tuesday’s win in Chicago. Pittsburgh’s pitching staff has been excellent early in the year, but more importantly, nearly every Pirates hitter has been mashing the ball.
The Cubs, however, are just 5-5 on the season, three games back of the Pirates in the NL Central. On paper, the Cubs have a deep and powerful lineup, but that has not been the case early in the season. To make matters worse, Anthony Rizzo was placed on the DL Tuesday with a back issue. Chicago’s rotation also began the season with a lot of fanfare but has been largely mediocre thus far.
Leave It To Lester
Jon Lester is the lone Cubs starter to pitch well this season, and he’ll get the ball Wednesday night. The veteran lefty has a 2.89 ERA after throwing six scoreless innings against the Brewers last time out. He faced the Pirates three times last seasons, going 1-2 and having a couple of his worst starts of the season, so Pittsburgh’s hitters won’t be intimidated to face him.
The biggest challenge Lester faces is that the Pirates are right-hand heavy outside of Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson. Also, a few of Pittsburgh’s ancillary players like Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and David Freese have good numbers against Lester, meaning the Pirates have the pieces to hurt him up and down the lineup.
Who’s This Guy?
Meanwhile, the Pirates will send lefty Steven Brault to the mound to oppose Lester. Most people outside of Pittsburgh have probably never heard of Brault. But he’s pitched well early in the season, allowing one run on three hits over five innings against the Reds last time out. That being said, he was hit hard by the Cubs all three times he faced them in 2017, so he’ll need to be at the top of his game Wednesday night.
As a team, the Cubs are 18 for 43 (.419) against Brault. While no one player has more than seven career at-bats against the lefty, Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Jason Heyward have all done damage against Brault. That being said, outside of Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs have struggled to get going offensively early in the year. In fact, Almora, Baez, and Ian Happ are all hitting under .200.
The Friendly Confines
Something has to give in this game. Brault has struggled against the Cubs in his career, but the Cubs are yet to click offensively. Lester, meanwhile, was good in his last time out but will have to face a red-hot Pirates lineup. In such instances, it’s best to go with the home team. Bet on the Cubs -180 to beat the Pirates.