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The Chicago Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight for the first game of their four-game series. Handicapper Ben Rajavuori breaks down the game and shares his pick.

Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Who Will Take the Series Opener?

The Pittsburgh Pirates travel from Milwaukee to Wrigley Field in Chicago to take on the Cubs in a four-game series. The Pirates were swept in their series against Milwaukee and will try to pick up just their second road win of the year tonight. The Cubs, meanwhile, dropped two games in their three-game series against the Rays after the weather called the game final last night with a score of 2-8 in the sixth inning. These teams have already played each other this year in a short, two-game series in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates split the series. Can the Cubs bounce back at home?

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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Prediction

Taking the mound today for the Pirates will be 24-year-old Bryce Wilson. The young starter has started the year okay, going 8.1 innings with five earned runs for a 5.4 earned run average. The young gun has a well-versed pitching arsenal, mixing up his sinker and four-seamer most and complimenting those with his curveball and slider. Strangely enough, Wilson pitched better on the road last year than at home, posting a 6.4 earned run average over ten starts at home and a 3.72 earned run average over six starts on the road. He also had one start in Wrigley Field last year, where he went five innings with just two earned runs. He will look to continue that success on the road against the Cubs tonight to give the Pirates just their second road win of the year.

Despite being 18th in runs per game (3.93), the Pirates have actually been hitting the ball well. They are tenth overall in batting average (.244) and have drawn 4.16 walks per game. Perhaps draw it up to some bad luck, but they have a prime spot to turn that good hitting into more runs today.

Mark Leiter Jr. has had a less-than-successful time in the MLB. His first season was actually his best. In 2017, he had a 4.96 earned run average. That jumped to 7.71 in 2018 and 18.9 so far this year. In his first and only start against the Rockies, he gave up seven runs in just 3.1 innings pitched. Leiter Jr. throws his sinker most, about 42% of the time, but he hasn't had control of it. He walked 21% of batters he faced so far, well above the 8.4% MLB average. He also has a career opponent OPS of .844, over an entire tenth above the .724 MLB average. It's an incredibly small sample and doesn't say much, but Ben Gamel has seen Leiter Jr. four times and is 2-4, and Jake Marisnick has seen him once and is 1-1. Simply put, Leiter Jr. hasn't found his sweet spot pitching yet, and I will continue fading him until he proves me wrong.

The Pirates played well in the first two meetings this year, losing the first by one run and then winning the second 6-2. The Pirates also played well in their last series in Wrigley Field last year (well, run line-wise). They lost all four, but they managed to keep it a one-run loss in three of the four, covering the run line.

Both pitchers are not good. However, Leiter Jr. is noticeably worse. While the Pirates are not a good team overall, they have shown flashes of good offense and average starting pitching on their way to a 5-7 record to start the year. They are tenth overall in batting average and now face someone who hasn't been able to pitch well in the big leagues yet. The Cubs bullpen also has only righty arms available, and the Pirates have some big lefty bats, so if they get in a jam against, they can't put in a lefty pitcher to maximize the chance of an out like most teams usually do. Although it can be scary to bet on bad teams on the road, the Pirates have an excellent opportunity to take this one today and, if not outright, at least cover the run line.

Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Pick

Pick: Pirates +1.5 (-140) (Bet $140 to win $100)

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Article Author


Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.


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