The Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in game one f their three-game series on Thursday afternoon from PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Pirates took the season opener last week in Chicago, but the Cubs found a way to battle back and win the next two games to take the series. Coming into this weekend’s series the Cubs have lost two in a row after dropping their last series to the Brewers, while the Pirates have now lost five in a row after getting swept in their three-game series with the Reds, giving up 25 runs over the last two games. Who will get off to a fast start in the series on Thursday?
Cubs Lean On ArrietaThe Cubs offense started slow on Opening Day, dropping last Thursday’s game to the Pirates, and are still yet to find their form, failing to score over five runs in any of their six games thus far. Over the last 22 innings, the Cubs only have three runs total and will need the offense to find themselves in the NL Central race come the fall. Against Tyler Anderson on Saturday, the Cubs put up five hits and three runs against the Pirates’ starter. In that game, Kris Bryant hit his first (and so far only) home run of the season and will be looking for the same amount of pop come Thursday afternoon. Chicago has nobody hitting over .350, which is a major concern even just a week into the season. Right now, Bryant looks like the star of the offense, hitting .200, while Eric Sogard has the same batting average to co-lead the team.
According to MLB.com, Jake Arrieta is expected to get his second start of the season on Thursday afternoon after picking up the win in a superb win against the Pirates over the weekend. On Saturday he struck out five and gave up just a run, while also being 13-6 with a 2.87 ERA all-time against the Pirates. Now in his 12th year in the Major Leagues, Arrieta is coming off a season in 2020 that saw him go fail to go over .500 for the third-straight year, while also seeing his ERA rise for the fifth straight year to 5.08 from 4.64 in 2019. Arrieta seems to be pretty far removed from his peak in 2014, 2015, and 2016, where he won a Cy Young Award, finished top ten two other times and was named an NL All-Star. The start against Pittsburgh over the weekend got him off to the start he needed early on this year and a second game against the Pirates should help continue to grow in confidence and momentum.
In 2020 while with the Phillies, Arrieta didn’t face off at all against the Pirates but did see them once in both 2019 and 2018. His 2019 start saw him get a no-decision after 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and only one earned run. In 2018 Arrieta got the win in his seven-inning start, striking out eight and allowing only a run. According to Baseball Savant, all-time against Arrieta, Pirates’ batters have 106 at-bats and 110 plate appearances total, with 21 hits, good for a .198 batting average against. Gregory Polanco has had the most success from a power standpoint with three home runs, but only is hitting .191 all-time against Arrieta, while Colin Moran has the highest average at .364 across 11 at-bats.
Pirates Pitching Staff Bleeding RunsHopes were high after the Pirates won their Opening Day matchup with the Cubs, but have now lost five in a row and have lost back-to-back series against Chicago and the Reds. The Pirates, for as bad as the pitching has been, haven’t had a ton of help on the offensive end either, failing to score more than five runs since Opening Day. Phillip Evans leads the team early on with two home runs, while Bryan Reynolds leads the regulars with a .3000 batting average. Against Arrieta, over the weekend the lineup struggled to get much going after the first inning, where they used a walk and back-to-back singles to get on the board early. After that though, the Pirates were only able to string together four ore hits against Arrieta but couldn’t stack them together in the same inning.
Tomorrow’s going to be special. pic.twitter.com/VE40GgtepG— Pirates (@Pirates) April 7, 2021
The Pirates will look for lefty Tyler Anderson to redeem himself after his start on Saturday against the Cubs, to get the win and start the series off strong for the home squad. According to MLB.com, Anderson has a 4.32 ERA in only four career starts against Chicago. In his first start of the season, the 2011 first-rounder out of Oregon, made it five innings, allowing five hits and three runs and striking out seven in the loss. Now in his sixth season in Major League Baseball but first with the Pirates, Anderson hasn’t faced the Cubs besides in the opener since 2018 when he had two starts against them, going 2-0 across 13 innings, allowing only four runs and striking out 15.
According to Baseball Savant, Chicago hitters have 69 at-bats and 77 plate appearances against Anderson. Across that span, they have 20 hits, good for a batting average of .289 and seven walks. Anderson has been a strikeout force against the Cubs, gathering 22 Ks. Kris Bryant has been the best hitter against Anderson, batting .364 with two homers, which isn’t a surprise after his damage on Saturday. If Anderson can get his complete arsenal of pitches working, he has a good chance to keep the Cubs off-balanced and build up the strikeouts, but most importantly, hope his own offense is able to support him.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Anderson had an off-night in his first game of the season on Saturday and Arrieta looked a little stronger than usual, which might mean some regression to the mean for both pitchers on Thursday. For as poor as the Pittsburgh offense has been, hitting .196, the Chicago offense has been much worse, hitting only .132 and they only have 18 hits over six games. Their pitching has really kept them in games, but the Pirates were able to get hits off Arrieta, but unable to string them together and had some un-timely double plays, and if that changes then Pittsburgh might be able to get some runs. Anderson has the ability to rack up the strikeouts and can keep this cold Cubs offense limited if he can just be a little sharper on Thursday, which he will be.
Full-Game Total Pick
These are two of the coldest offenses in baseball, with both teams hitting under .200 and both teams starters also have the ability to slow down each other’s offenses even more so than usual. Additionally, according to covers.com, for the Cubs, the under is 4-0 in their last four road games vs. a left-handed starter, is 4-0 in their last four games vs. a starter with a WHIP greater than 1.30, and is 7-0 in their last seven games vs. a team with a winning % below .400. For Pittsburgh, the under is 5-0 in their last five games as a home underdog, is 7-0-1 in their last eight home games vs. a team with a winning record, is 5-0-1 in their last six games vs. a team with a winning % above .600, is 5-0 in their last five home games, and is 4-0 in their last four home games with the total set at 7.0-8.5. Between the two teams, the under is 5-0 in the last five meetings in Pittsburgh and is 7-1 in the last eight meetings overall.