The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs went through 162 games and ended up with the second and third best records in the major leagues, respectively. The two will square off and continue to spark debate about the postseason format when the Cubs visit the Pirates on Wednesday in the one-game National League wild-card playoff for the right to face the MLB-best St. Louis Cardinals in the divisional round.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to the one-game playoff and is making its third straight trip to the game after winning in 2013 and falling to the eventual World Series-champion San Francisco Giants in the edition. Ace Gerrit Cole did not get a chance to pitch in either of those first two games but will take the mound on Wednesday opposite Jake Arrieta, who is coming off a historic second half. Chicago’s ascent this season is one step in a process started when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office, and the team they built is brimming with young talent on offense like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. The Pirates took two of three from Cincinnati over the final weekend of the regular season to finish the season one game ahead of the Cubs and ensure the game would take place in Pittsburgh, where they are 53-28.
TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, TBS
LINE HISTORY: The Pirates opened as +104 home dogs and the line has steadily moved in the Cubs direction ever since and now the Pirates currently sit at +126. The total hasn’t moved off its very low opening number of 5.5.
INJURY REPORT: N/A.
WEATHER REPORT: It will be partly cloudy at gametime with a slight 13 percent chance of rain. There will also be a minor four mile per hour wind gusting out to right field.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “With Arrieta pitching we have seen the total move from 6 to 5.5, but we are still seeing 77 percent of the action come in on the over and over 60 percent of the action favoring the Cubs on the moneyline and the -1.5 run line.” – Michael Stewart of CarbonSports.
HOT FAN WAR:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60)
Arrieta is on the short list for the NL Cy Young Award due in large part to a second half in which he went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA. The 29-year-old scattered six hits and one walk over 22 scoreless innings in his final three starts while striking out 27. The last time Arrieta, who allowed one hit in seven innings at home against the Pirates on Sept. 27, gave up a run and failed to earn a win came at Pittsburgh on Sept. 16, when he was charged with two runs (one earned) on six hits in eight innings without factoring in the decision.
Cole won his final three starts as well, yielding a total of six runs and 17 hits in 21 innings with 19 strikeouts. The former No. 1 overall draft pick went seven innings at Chicago on Sept. 25 and allowed one run and four hits to pick up the win and improve to 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in nine career starts against the Cubs. Cole struck out 32 in 25 2/3 innings against the Cubs in 2015.
* Cubs are 4-0 in Arrieta’s last four road starts versus the Pirates.
* Under is 5-0-1 in Arrieta’s last six starts versus the Pirates.
* Pirates are 8-1 in Cole’s last nine starts versus the Cubs.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is siding with the Cubs in this spot with 58.84 percent of wagers backing the Lovable Losers, currently listed at -137.