Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs MLB Odds and Pick for April 21st

Most of Thursday’s Major League Baseball action will take place during the day, but we do still have a handful of evening games on the docket. One of them will pit the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Chicago Cubs in one of the National League’s oldest rivalries. Neither of these teams is expected to do much this season, but you never know.

The 2022 season is only a couple of weeks old, but the Pirates are already living down to their low expectations. Pittsburgh is off to a ragged 5-7 start, which is good for fourth place in the five-team NL Central. On the bright side, they’re already well in front of the struggling 2-11 Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates will continue a divisional road trip after getting swept in three games in Milwaukee earlier in the week. Pittsburgh’s offense was predictably quiet in that series, as they failed to muster more than two runs in any of the three games against the Brewers’ outstanding pitching staff.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are off to a 6-6 start, which has them third in the division behind Milwaukee and St. Louis. Chicago dropped the last two games of a three-game home set against the Rays, including a rain-shortened 8-2 setback in just 5.5 innings on Wednesday evening.

BetOnline oddsmakers like the Cubs to get back into the win column at the Pirates’ expense in Thursday’s series opener. Chicago is a -161 moneyline favorite in a game with an over/under of nine runs.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have endured a few lean years recently. The last time Pittsburgh made the playoffs was 2015, and they’ve enjoyed just one winning season since then. The Pirates lost over 100 games last season for the first time since 2010, as well.

When you lose 100 games in a season, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? There are a couple of cornerstone-type young players already on the roster, and the Pirates also have one of the most impressive farm systems in baseball. Minor league rankings don’t always pan out, of course, but a promising future could be in store for this team.

In the meantime, they’re going to take their lumps. Tonight’s starter, Bryse Wilson, is no stranger to that. The young right-hander has struggled since breaking into the majors for the first time back in 2018 with the Braves. Wilson, like so many others, was a hyped prospect back then.

In 33 career big-league appearances, Wilson is just 6-8 with a 5.54 ERA. That includes a 5.40 ERA through a couple of mediocre starts this season. Wilson allowed three runs on five hits in four innings back on April 10th against the Cardinals. Six days after that, he yielded another couple of runs in four innings against Washington.
The Pirates have won both of Wilson’s starts so far this season, but he hasn’t had a whole lot to do with it. The right-hander has a career 15.6 percent strikeout rate in the majors along with a walk rate north of nine percent. In this day and age, that’s not really a formula for success.

The Pirates will have to hope their bats can do some damage against Cubs starter Mark Leiter Jr. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Daniel Vogelbach are both hitting north of .320 early in the year, but the Buccos are still waiting on Bryan Reynolds (.229), Yoshi Tsutsugo (.194), and Ben Gamel (.180) to round back into form.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs parted ways with most of their 2016 World Series-winning core last season. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez are all gone, which means the Cubs are in the midst of a rebuilding process. Chicago tried to accelerate the rebuild by signing the likes of Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman this winter, but oddsmakers still doubt the Cubs have what it takes to make a run to the playoffs in 2022.

So far, Suzuki has looked like a steal. The Cubs broke the bank by paying the Japanese star $85 million this winter, but that certainly looks like money well spent. Through his first 12 regular-season games against big league pitching, all Suzuki is doing is slashing .387/.535/.839 with four homers, nine runs, and 11 runs batted in. I’m not sure a .565 on-base percentage is sustainable, but his discipline has been arguably his most impressive attribute early in his career.

David Ross will hand Mark Leiter Jr. the ball for the series opener against Pittsburgh. The 31-year-old will be hoping to improve upon a lackluster 2022 debut. Leiter was knocked around for seven earned runs on five hits, along with four walks, in his first start of the year a few days ago against Colorado. We can take that outing with a grain of salt considering it happened at Coors Field, but it was still an inauspicious start. It was also Leiter’s first MLB outing since 2018.

Suzuki and Ian Happ have been outstanding at the plate, but the Cubs aren’t getting much steady production anywhere else. None of the other regulars is hitting better than Frank Schwindel’s .261 mark to this point, while Willson Contreras, Rafael Ortega, and Clint Frazier have gotten off to particularly sluggish starts.

The Cubs have been a good runline bet so far this season. Chicago is 8-4 against the runline, while Pittsburgh is an even 6-6 coming into this one.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs MLB Game Pick

The Cubs are justifiable favorites in this game, as they’re the home team going up against the middling Bryse Wilson. Chicago’s offense projects better than Pittsburgh’s overall this season, as well.

Please Note:
However, the Pirates shouldn’t be overlooked here, either. There’s a reason Leiter went about four years between MLB appearances. He’s essentially serving as a stopgap in the Cubs’ rotation, and I think oddsmakers are underrating the Pirates with their tiny 3.75 implied run total in this game.

Betting on baseball underdogs can be a profitable endeavor if you’re smart about the bets you place. Wilson isn’t very good, but neither is Leiter. With such a vulnerable pitcher on the mound, should the Cubs really be -161 moneyline favorites in this game? Even the worst teams in Major League Baseball win 60-plus games every year. The Pirates won’t win many more than that, but I do like the upside in taking Pittsburgh’s +140 moneyline in this one.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs Betting Recap

  • Moneyline: Pirates +148, Cubs -161
  • Runline: Pirates +1.5 (-140), Cubs -1.5 (+120)
  • Over/Under: Over 9 runs (-110), Under 9 runs (-110)
  • Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates (+140)


Taylor Smith / Author

Taylor is a sports writer based in Southern California. While he primarily specializes in basketball, baseball and football, he will also dabble in things like soccer and politics from time to time. He has lived in just about every corner of the United States at one point or another, and he has been covering sports and sports betting for the better part of a decade. Taylor currently lives in Long Beach with his fiancé and their two cats.

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