All the Cubs needed was 1 run to get a W last night at PNC Park. It was a stellar performance by Jon Lester who absolutely needed an outing like that. He showed that he can still be an elite pitcher and Lester certainly looked elite against the Pirates. If Lester can stay the course and pitch like that the rest of the season, the Cubs will get a big lift.
He had been torturing Cubs’ fans with poor starts since after the All-Star break, but Lester finally broke out of the hole and put forth a near perfect outing. With the win, the Cubs added to their lead in the National League Central. The Brewers had the day off Thursday, so the last time we seen them was a loss to the Cubs on Wednesday. They’re going to find it tough to catch the Cubs if they can’t make it count when they play them. The Cubs have some breathing room now, with a 3.5-game lead in the NL Central.
Cole Hamels has made three starts with the Cubs since the trade with the Rangers. At least thus far, Hamels has looked like an entirely different pitcher. It’s almost like he needed some motivation to get rolling again. The Rangers weren’t going any where and Hamels was granted a wish to go to a contender. He went to the best team in the National League, and will have a chance to help a team go far in the postseason. Hamels will get the call this evening against the Pirates, as he hopes to duplicate Lester from yesterday. The Pirates will opt for Trevor Williams, who is in his second full-year in the major leagues. Head below for our free Cubs vs. Pirates pick.
Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Pick
Cole Hamels (7-9, 4.22 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (10-8, 3.66 ERA)
Hamels could be the move of the year in the majors. Lance Lynn has improved dramatically since getting traded to the Yankees, but Hamels is playing on a team with a better shot of going further in the postseason. The Yankees chances may depend on the future health of Aaron Judge. They need to get him back and swinging the bat at an elite level. The Cubs have been without Kris Bryant, but David Bote has been more than serviceable.
Hamels has made three starts with the Cubs and been exceptional in all. He has a 1.00 ERA 0.83 WHIP with his new team. In 18 innings, Hamels has allowed just 2 runs and an average of 3.6 hits per game. He is coming off a 1 hit 1 run showing against the Washington Nationals. He also struck out 9 batters for the second time in three games. Starling Marte is the only hitter than has taken Hamels deep in 120 at-bats.
Trevor Williams will look to keep up with Hamels in this one, and in his third-year, Williams has shown that he belongs in the starting rotation. Williams enters with a 3.66 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He matches Hamels with an ERA of 1.00 in his last three starts. His strong pitching dates back to July 11th, where he’s allowed just 2 runs in five outings. That goes across 29 innings of work for Williams. The Cubs are hitting .256 with 2 long balls in 82 at-bats against him. The UNDER has gone 28-10-1 in his previous 39 appearances. I’d expect a low-scoring contest, with Hamels and Williams paving the way for their respective ball clubs.