The Pittsburgh Pirates will aim for the jugular on Thursday, as they hope to deliver a four-game blow to the Chicago Cubs. The Bucs can complete the sweep of the Cubs in a series that they needed. Now the NL Central is tighter than ever before. I’ve said all season that any team can win this division and it still stands true, and even more so today.
Only 4.5 games separates 1st from 5th. The Brewers are in 1st while the Reds are last. Pittsburgh are in 4th, but just 3 games behind the Brewers. That’s what 42-43 gets you in the NL Central. It hasn’t been a good division by any stretch, but at least we’re expecting an entertaining second-half. This one is unlikely to be decided anytime soon.
Pittsburgh are looking to put a bow on one of their best series of the year thus far. Leading into the series finale on Thursday, the Pirates have outscored the Cubs by a whopping 18 runs in the last three days. While the Pirates on the verge of sweeping the Cubs is impressive enough, embarrassing them must be pretty fun.
I will say that yesterday wasn’t much of an embarrassment, though. But the way that the Cubs lost providing a thrilling occasion for the Pirates. Down by a run in the 9th inning, the Pirates won on a Corey Dickerson sac-fly. It’s not the flashiest walk-off, but they count all the same.
They started this series off with a blowout 18-5 win, and then the Cubs blew a 5-4 lead Wednesday for a 6-5 win for the Pirates. The Pirates have already enjoyed a couple of thrilling emotions against the Cubs, with a 13-run win and 1-run win in the 9th inning. Jordan Lyles will go for the sweep for the Pirates, while Jose Quintana hopes to put a block on that. Head below for our free Cubs vs. Pirates pick.
Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Pick:
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This is exactly what the Pirates needed at this point in the season. With the All-Star break approaching, they can go into vacation feeling good and confident if they can ride this momentum to the end of the first-half of the season. If they win out and everyone plays poorly, they may actually find themselves at the top.
Unlikely to happen, but the Pirates are unbelievably just 3 games out of first, so it isn’t impossible by any means. Milwaukee are just 46-41, yet have the lead in the NL Central. There are a lot of teams who wish they were playing in this division. Having said that, a lot can change in a month and a team can go on a run. Will it be the Pirates? With Josh Bell swinging the stick how he has, it’s certainly possible. If you don’t know who Josh Bell is, just wait until the Home Run Derby and you’ll know who he is.
Bell is probably going to put on a show. Jordan Lyles hopes to put on a show for the Cubs on Thursday. Lyles has been adequate with an ERA of 3.71 and 1.22 WHIP. However, Lyles has watched as his numbers have slipped recently. He’s allowed at least 3 runs in his last five starts and enters with a 6.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in his last three games.
Consider how Lyles had a 1.97 ERA on May 17th. Ever since then, he’s seemed to get a little too comfortable and allowed himself to regress significantly. He has been slightly worse at home than on the road, as he owns an ERA of 3.93 at home as opposed to a 3.50 on the road.
Quintana has a 5.87 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in his last three games, but two out of three games were good for him. It was a poor outing against the Mets which jacked his numbers up. In the other two games, he was solid against the Reds and Dodgers with only 2 runs yielded in 11 innings of work. Expect the Cubs to show some pride and avoid a sweep against the Bucs on the 4th of July.