We won our fifth bet in six games last night when we backed the Milwaukee Brewers as home favorites against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I really liked our side of the starting pitching matchup as Wade Miley had been lights out for the Brewers all season long and Nick Kingham was a struggling rookie that was just pulled out of the bullpen to start for Pittsburgh. The Brewers jumped out to a big lead in this one as through four innings the Brewers had already taken a 7-0 lead.
The Pirates made a game of it in the fifth though as they hammered Miley for four runs before he could record an out in the inning and ran him from the game. It looked like we might have a game on our hands for a minute. But the Brew Crew responded in the sixth with a five-spot of their own that put this one out of reach for good.
The Brewers picked up the much-needed win to keep pace with the Chicago Cubs who also won yesterday, for first place in the National League Central Division race. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in the Central Division as we break down the game between Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Chicago Cubs open up their final homestand of the year tonight as the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town for game one of a four-game series. The Cubs are in a tight race for the division title with the Milwaukee Brewers who are just two and a half games back of first place. While the Pirates are out of contention at this point, they are still playing hard and have embraced this spoiler role down the stretch with recent wins against division rivals the Brewers and Cardinals. Pittsburgh is hoping they can further influence the race tonight in Chicago.
Starting for the Pirates is Jameson Taillon (13-9 3.24 ERA), and for the Cubs, it is Cole Hamels (9-10 3.90 ERA). The Cubs are -148 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight runs. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 PM PST from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Chicago Cubs control their own destiny at this point. With a two and a half game lead, if they win out, they are division champs. But that is going to be easier said than done as they play two motivated central division teams to close out the season. The Pirates have won twelve out of their last seventeen games despite not really playing for much at this point. And the Cardinals are trying to hang on to the second wild-card spot in the National League as they currently hold just a game and a half lead over the Colorado Rockies for the final playoff spot in the NL.
The Cubs will start Cole Hamels tonight as they look to close out the division title. Hamels was pitching absolutely terribly before being traded over from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline. However, the Cubs decided that Hamel’s reputation as a big-time pitcher in the postseason would be enough to give the guy a second chance. The Cubs made the move, and it looked like it was going to work out just as they had planned as Hamels went 4-0 with 0.69 ERA in six August starts for Chicago.
However, recently, Hamels is looking a lot more like the Hamels he was in Texas this year that had an ERA of nearly five runs. In September, Hamels is 0-1 with a 5.18 ERA in four starts, and the Cubs are 1-3 during that stretch. He hasn’t been all bad in September as that ERA is inflated by getting rocked for seven runs in his last start, but his production has clearly fallen off at this point. The Cubs are hoping that Hamels can get back on track tonight against a Pirates team he threw seven shutout innings against in August.
Jameson Taillon started his season out a little shaky but has been pitching at a very high level the last several months. His season ERA since June has been sub-three runs, and the guy has been the most reliable pitcher for the Pirates this season. He is finishing strong too, as he is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in September. And he has only one losing decision since July. The Pirates have won eight out of the last nine games he has started.
This is a tight matchup. I think the Cubs are clearly the better team, but the Pirates are playing really well right now. They are enjoying playing spoiler to their division foes and are doing their best to wreak havoc in the central before all is said and done this year. Taillon is pitching as well as he has all season long and something tells me the Pirates aren’t ready to go gently into the cold dark night.
Throw in the fact that Cole Hamels is looking old and tired again and I think we have found a spot to take a shot on a big underdog. The Cubs are in a tight race, but they don’t appear to really be turning up the heat much. They are just 4-3 in their last seven games, and that includes losses to bad teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. I see this game as a coin flip type of game that could go either way. And so, I will do what I always do in these spots, and that is back the team getting all the dog money. Give me the Pittsburgh Pirates as big road underdogs tonight in game one from Chicago at +139!