Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#975 Pittsburgh Pirates 10 vs.
#976 Chicago Cubs -180
Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 8:15pm EDT
Written by Sporty Jordy

When and where: August 1, 2020, Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL, 8:15 PM ET

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue their efforts in finding their first series win of the season in Saturday’s road clash with the Chicago Cubs. It won’t come easy against a Cubs team that toppled the Milwaukee Brewers and came within a game of finishing off the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates, on the other hand, have lost back-to-back series meetings to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Mitch Keller is expected to warm the mound at the start for the Pirates opposite of Chicago’s Tyler Chatwood.

Mitch finds a changeup

Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller changed things up in the offseason by actually working on his changeup. His shiny new weapon mixed in brilliantly with his fastball to keep the Cardinals guessing last Sunday. It was a sign of growth from the 24-year-old righty that was content to lean solely on his fastball for most of 2019. That’s good news for the struggling Pirates and possibly bad news for the Cubs.

“We used the changeup three or four times,” Keller said after leading the Pirates to a 5-1 win over the Cardinals, via the Tribune Review. “Got a couple quick outs. Just changing eye level and changing tempo kept them off balance.”

Keller used his changeup sparingly in his rookie year, but he seems to understand he’s going to have to be more creative to find sustained success in the big leagues. He’ll get tested on Saturday against a Cubs offense that ranks first in the league in runs scored.

We can skip the introductions in this meeting.

The Cubs caused plenty of enough nightmares last season to live rent-free in Keller’s head. In the nine-plus innings he pitched against them, he posted one loss and a 6.75 ERA after allowing 14 hits and seven earned runs. You can rest assured he’s looking for a chance to exorcise those demons and lead the Pirates to an upset. Of course, that’s assuming the team can hold up its end on offense. As of Friday evening, the Pirates are sitting dead last in on-base percentage (.241).

Rains wash out the Cubs and raise questions for MLB

The heavens opened up and a torrential downpour of rain nixed the Cubs’ plans to close out their four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. It also unearthed some serious holes in the MLB’s safety protocols.

Cubs three-time MLB All-Star Anthony Rizzo, a cancer survivor, wasn’t impressed with being crammed into a dugout while awaiting a decision on whether or not the game was being played. With Coronavirus cases popping up around the league, the MLB will have to do a better job of shoring up its protocols to ensure the season isn’t short-lived.

“Player safety? @mlb let’s sit around for 8 plus hours inside the clubhouse,” Rizzo posted on Twitter. “I’m sure I can find that somewhere in the 113 page player safety protocol.”

Fortunately for Rizzo and the Cubs, rain isn’t in the forecast for Saturday’s game against the Pirates—although, Mitch Keller’s changeup could be.

The hard-hitting lineup hopes to turn Keller’s visit to Wrigley Field into a house of horrors tour. They have plenty of reasons to feel confident considering they have the third-best slugging percentage (.473) in the league and fourth-highest home run average. It could be game over in a hurry if the wood gets to chopping early. The Cubs have been eating pitches for breakfast with the team averaging eight runs in their last four outings.

Tyler Chatwood returns to the mound after singing the Brewers their lullaby last Sunday. He put on a pitching clinic in allowing only three hits and one earned run in six innings. The 30-year-old veteran finished the 2019 season with a 1.13 ERA in the five games he worked in as a reliever against the Pirates.

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Keller found his changeup this season, but as of right now, the Pirates have yet to consistently find their offense. Playing defense must feel like being sequestered on an island for a Pirates team struggling to get runners across home plate. That’s a recipe for disaster when going on the road against a Cubs team that’s seemingly smacking everything in sight.

The Pirates lack the power and big-play potential to land the knockout blow at Wrigley. It isn’t like much has changed considering they ranked in the bottom-half of the league in run-scoring last season as well. There is too much dependent on Keller being great and the bullpen rising to the occasion for me to have faith in an upset.

Keller is still a work in process, and he’ll learn another hard lesson on Saturday night. Give me the Cubs to get ahead on the scoreboard early and never look back.

Prediction: Chicago Cubs (-169)

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The Cubs had a field day with Keller last season, and they’ll be looking to turn up the heat again on the second-year big-leaguer. While a mixed pitch selection will make the Pirates starter a bit more unpredictable, he’s still going to have a tough time dealing with a Cubs team slashing .241/.340/.473 this season. Granted, they haven’t played many games, and they surely padded some of those stats in their previous series with the Reds. But this is still a dangerous offense facing a Pirates team allowing an average five runs per game. I’m taking the over betting total here.

Prediction: Over
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Sporty Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys and all the Sun Drop you can drink.