The Chicago Cubs look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they start a three-game series against the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday. The Cubs come into the contest on a six-game losing streak, while the Pirates have dropped nine straight games.
Chicago has to be almost perfect the rest of the way and hope for a lot of help if it is going to make the postseason. The Cubs have dropped out of the National League Central race after losing four straight to the first-place Cardinals over the weekend, and they now sit four games behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot in the National League with just six games to play. Pittsburgh, sitting in last place in the NL Central 24.5 games behind the Cardinals, has long since been out of the playoff hunt.
The moneyline for this contest has the Chicago Cubs -180 and the Pittsburgh Pirates +165. The over/under has been set at 8.5.
Kyle Hendricks has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs over the last few weeks, winning his last three decisions and not taking a loss on his record since Aug. 10. Hendricks enters this one with an 11-9 record and a 3.26 ERA, with that 11th win coming against the Pirates 10 days ago. In that contest, Hendricks went six innings, holding Pittsburgh to one earned run and seven hits. He is coming off an outing against the Cardinals in which he allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and would have taken a loss if not for a ninth-inning comeback that tied the game.
The Chicago offense has gone silent after it exploded during the Cubs’ last series with Pittsburgh. A three-game sweep of the Pirates at Wrigley Field saw Chicago scored 47 runs, but the Cubs have managed a total of 27 runs in the seven games since. Injuries have been catching up to Chicago of late, with Kris Bryant the latest Cubs player to go down, slipping on first base trying to beat out a hit on Sunday and twisting his ankle. Bryant likely won’t play in at least this game, while Anthony Rizzo, the team’s leader in batting average (.294) and runs batted in (94), is playing on a hurt ankle that limits his mobility as well.
Taking His Shot
Rookie Mitch Keller will take the mound for the Pirates, having missed the Cubs during the previous series between the two teams. Still, the 23-year-old has dropped his last four decisions, starting with a setback against Chicago in which he went 4 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits, including two home runs, and six earned runs. On the season, Keller is 1-5 with a 7.74 ERA, with 58 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched.
The Pirates are in full assessment mode in preparation for the offseason, with a number of regulars out of the lineup due to injuries. The team’s biggest offensive threat, Josh Bell, hasn’t played since the opening game of the Pirates’ last series with Chicago, though there is a thought he may come back at some point this week if his groin injury gets better. Bryan Reynolds paces the Pirates with a .318 batting average, though he’s batting just .128 in 47 at-bats against the Cubs this season.
Cubs Get Win
Until they’re officially out of the postseason race, the Cubs are going to fight like they have something to play for. Pittsburgh has long since thrown in the towel on this season, and it has struggled against the Cubs all season long, dropping 11 of the previous 16 meetings this season. I’m going with Chicago -180 to make it 12 of 17.