The Chicago Cubs will hope to take another step toward clinching the National League Central when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates for the third installment of a four-game set at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. Chicago had won two in a row before its clinching hopes hit a snag with Monday’s loss. The Pirates are 7-2 in their last nine outings.
Too little, too late
Pittsburgh is not going to the playoffs, but it is finishing the season strong with a 13-5 record in its last 18 contests. The Pirates evened this 2018 head-to-head series at 8-8 with Monday’s 5-1 victory over the Cubs. They have limited Chicago to one run or less in six of their eight victories in this rivalry. Catcher Francisco Cervelli went deep on Monday and is 14-for-34 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 11 games against the Cubs during the 2018 campaign. Center fielder Starling Marte (left calf tightness) did not play in the opener and is day-to-day.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.01 ERA) is taking the mound for Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Nova has not allowed more than one run in any of his last three starts, two which lasted 6.0 innings. He has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in six of his last seven outings. The 31-year-old most recently went up against Milwaukee this past Friday, when he logged 4.1 innings and yielded one run on three hits and two walks to go along with a pair of strikeouts during an 8-3 loss by the Pirates.
Offense slowed by Pirates
The Cubs’ offense has been all or nothing of late, and it has been especially hopeless when Pittsburgh is the opponent in the field. Chicago’s bats were silent in Monday’s opener, so the visitors will get eager to back on track in that department while trying to maintain their slim lead in the National League Central. The Cubs have been held to one or zero runs in 10 of their last 16 losses, including on Monday’s–when pitcher Cole Hamels’ solo homer accounted for Chicago’s only run. The Cubs, who hold a 1.5-game edge on Milwaukee in their division, have scored a single run on a solo homer in each of their last five games against the Pirates.
Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.11 ERA) will oppose Nova on Wednesday. The left-hander struggled for the first time in a while during his most recent appearance, which came against the White Sox last Friday. Quintana worked 5.0 innings and surrendered five runs on nine hits and no walks while striking out eight batters in a 10-4 loss by the Cubs. The 29-year-old had previous delivered six consecutive starts without allowing more than two runs.
The Chicago Cubs are:
- 23-9 in their last 32 home games against right-handed starters
- 45-17 in their last 62 home games against teams with losing road records
- 16-5 in Quintana’s last 21 home starts
The Pittsburgh Pirates are:
- 7-21 in their last 28 road games against left-handed starters
- 3-10 in Nova’s last 13 road starts against teams with winning records
- 1-4 in Nova’s last five starts against the National League Central
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Cubs may not have to score too many runs on Wednesday because Quintana has been in fine form for the most part. He is also sporting a clean 1.80 ERA against Pittsburgh in 2018. Nova, meanwhile, is saddled with a dreadful 5.11 ERA on the road this season compared to 2.99 on the road.
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
Full-Game Total Pick
Pittsburgh has stymied the Cubs’ lineup on a relatively consistent basis in 2018. It may have to do so again in order to keep within striking distance of Quintana and company. The under is 26-11-1 in the Pirates’ last 38 overall, 4-1 in their last five on the road, 5-1 in Nova’s last six starts, and 5-2 in his last seven starts against Chicago. It is also 10-4 in the Cubs’ last 14 overall, 7-0 in their las seven at home, and 6-2 in their last eight against winning opponents. Additionally, the under is 5-0 in the last five meetings between the two teams and 5-0 in Pittsburgh’s last five on the road against the Cubs. Look for this one to stay under the total.
First Five Innings Side Pick
Quintana is 1-1 with a 2.74 ERA in four starts against the Pirates, and he allowed one run over 5.0 innings in a no-decision in the first meeting this season. Infielder Javier Baez has a team-high 51 multi-hit games, the most by a Cubs player since Starlin Castro had 51 in 2012.
Prediction: Chicago Cubs -184
First Five Innings Total Bet
The Cubs have been limited to five total runs over the past six meetings with Pittsburgh, which coasted to a 6-0 win on Tuesday. Chicago has scored no more than one run in four straight home games for the first time since 1989.
Prediction: Under 4.5