Pirates vs. Cubs Pick MLB – May 15th

The Nats got housed yesterday 8-1, and not coincidentally, Bryce Harper served his (well-earned) one game suspension.  Baseball is thought of less in terms of individual superstars than baseball and football (quarterbacks), but if it were either other sport, the “Bryce Harper is obviously MVP” talk would have gone into hyper-drive.  The Nats lineup is COMPLETELY different without Harper, and the Marlins attacked them accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Nats are getting division pressure from a surprising source, the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Fightin’ Phills ran their record in one-run games to a staggering 14-3 with yesterday’s second straight one-run win over the visiting Reds.  It seems like a pretty unsustainable statistical anomaly, but fans in Philadelphia, who have suffered with the Phillies and Sixers for half a decade of dismal losing have to be enjoying the competitive nature and promise this young team is showing early.  Can they contend all year long?  Probably not.  But 100 losses, as was widely projected by many, is looking laughable at this point.

We dropped our bid for a third straight winner last night when a Buster Posey double broke the tie in the ninth in Arizona.  The Giants got a good-enough performance from Jake Peavy for the first time this season and then took advantage of the D’Backs pen late.  Let’s try to start a new winning streak to end the week.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Pittsburgh Pirates +145 at Chicago Cubs -153 (Total: 8)

Gerrit Cole (3-3,3.78 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (4-1, 1.96 ERA)

You are certainly welcome to bet the Cubbies straight-up today.  They have dominated the Pirates with absolute merciless this season, winning every single game and outscoring them 37-11 in five games.  They’ve won every single game on the runline and haven’t scored less than six runs in any single contest.  That is insane domination.

But, if you are feeling a little daring, there is some value in the Buccos today.  Gerrit Cole got touched up for five runs in five innings by the Cubs earlier, but he does have good historical success again this club.  He is 5-1 with a 2.77 ERA since 2014 in Wrigley and hasn’t allowed a single homerun in 37 innings.  Granted, this year’s Cubbies are an improvement over past editions, but half that sample size includes last year’s 97-win edition.  Cole has been an All Star and a legitimate ace and he has looked better lately after a slow start to the season (which began with him being held out as the Opening Day starter because of minor elbow trouble).

The point is, Cole and +145 is certainly a reasonable risk.

The problem is, the Cubs never lose.  Specifically, they NEVER LOSE with Lester or Arrieta on the mound.  Lester has been excellent this season and even better lately.  He is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his last four outings.

The run total, despite Chicago’s obvious enjoyment of Pirate pitching this season, feels a little aggressive given the caliber of pitching starting today’s game.  I like both to fare well and for us to finally get a reasonably close, and lower-scored, game.  There isn’t quite enough value at -150 for me on the Cubs and I like Cole’s chances to fare well, despite all the recent Pirate foibles against the Cubs, so the usual runline wager on the Cubs isn’t my speed today either.

Instead, I’ll bank on baseball’s old maxim, good pitching trumps good hitting, and bet on a rare low-scoring affair between these two rivals.

Free Pick: Run TOTAL UNDER 8

Chris Scheeren / Author