Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs MLB Pick for April 11
The Cubs were a popular pick among experts to challenge for a World Series title again this season, but the 2019 campaign has gotten off to a rocky start for Chicago. The 2016 world champions are just 3-8 through the season’s first 11 games, and suspect pitching has many wondering whether this team really is capable of winning much of anything in the long haul.
The Cubs got another uneven start out of Yu Darvish on Wednesday. The $100-plus million man allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits in 5.1 innings of work. It was good to see Darvish walk nobody after control issues plagued him greatly in each of his first 2 starts, but he also allowed home runs to Francisco Cervelli and Starling Marte.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, improved to 6-4 on the young season thanks to a strong start on Wednesday night from Jordan Lyles. Lyles conceded just a run on 3 hits in 6 innings of work with a whopping 10 strikeouts in the Pirates’ 5-2 victory.
The teams will meet for the rubber match of their 3-game series at Wrigley on Thursday night, when Joe Musgrove will take the mound for the Pirates opposite the Cubs’ Jose Quintana.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
|2019 ATR Home||3-3-0||1-1-0|
|2019 ATR Away||2-2-0||2-7-0|
|2019 O/U Home||4-2-0||1-1-0|
|2019 O/U Away||1-3-0||7-2-0|
Can Pittsburgh Make Some Noise?
Coming into the season, all of the talk in the NL Central surrounded the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. The Reds were active during the offseason, as well, while Pittsburgh largely stayed the same. Manager Clint Hurdle has been in charge for several years, so there was nothing really new about this team coming into the season.
However, there’s a good bit of talent here, and if everything breaks the right way this could be a team that vies for a postseason spot. This will be Musgrove’s second start and third overall appearance of the young season, and the right-hander has still yet to allow a run to this point. He pitched a pair of scoreless innings in relief against the Reds on March 31, and followed that up by twirling 7 shutout innings against the same Cincinnati club 6 days later.
Musgrove, who came over in the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to Houston, has pitched pretty well overall since coming to Pittsburgh. He posed a passable 20.6 percent strikeout rate last season, and he’s sitting at 30 percent through 2 appearances this year. He’s shown excellent control, as evidenced by a low career walk rate of 5.5 percent, as well.
Musgrove generally keeps the ball on the ground while allowing plenty of soft contact, which helps him limit home runs. He was taken deep just 12 times in 19 starts a season ago, He’s been more vulnerable against left-handed hitters, as evidenced by the career .329 wOBA he’s allowed to southpaws. So, guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber profile pretty well here against him.
I wouldn’t be betting on the Pirates to make the playoffs out of the tough NL Central, but I do think this is a team with which we can pick our spots at times during the regular season.
Cubs Looking for Answers
Chicago still has lots of the same players that led the franchise to its first championship in over 100 years 3 seasons ago, but for whatever reason they haven’t quite clicked over the last 2 seasons. Kris Bryant battled injuries last season, while pitchers like Jon Lester and Yu Darvish just haven’t lived up to expectations.
The same can certainly be said of Jose Quintana. Chicago parted ways with top prospect Eloy Jimenez in order to get Quintana from the White Sox in 2017, but the left-hander has surprisingly struggled since coming to the National League.
Like Musgrove, this will be Quintana’s second start and third appearance of the year. He pitched 4 innings in relief in his first outing against the Rangers and followed that up by getting blasted by the Brewers in his first start. Quintana was tattooed to the tune of 8 runs on 8 hits in just 3 innings of work last time out in Milwaukee. He struck out 3, walked 3, and allowed 3 home runs, too.
Strikeouts have not been problematic for Quintana, but control has been. The southpaw has a 15.4 percent walk rate on the young season, and last year his BB% was north of 9 percent. You’re just not going to pitch deep into games if you’re continually putting opposing hitters on base.
It’s going to be another chilly night in the Windy City, with gametime temperatures expected to be in the mid-to-upper 50s. That’s good weather for pitching, and the winds are also expected to be blowing in a bit. With the way Wrigley is designed, the flight of the ball is impacted pretty greatly by wind direction. If it’s blowing out, we tend to see big offensive days. If it’s blowing in, we’re more likely to see a pitcher’s duel.
Given the way the Cubs’ offense has struggled out of the gates, I think the matchup is shaping up pretty well for Musgrove. He’s a generally underrated pitcher to begin with, and the Pirates do have some capable relievers in the bullpen ready to back him up.
While Quintana hasn’t been good since joining the Cubs, I tend to think there’s still a talented pitcher in there somewhere. The Pirates’ lineup doesn’t strike out often, but it also doesn’t have a ton of power. The power they do have will be somewhat mitigated by the weather conditions in this game, as well.
9 runs just looks like a high total for this game, all things considered. The ball has been flying early in the season, but this looks like a spot in which runs may be difficult to come by for both offenses. Betting the under always feels a little bit risky, but I’m confident in this one.
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