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Wednesday’s Playoff Action
CHICAGO CUBS (97-65) at PITTSBURGH PIRATES (98-64)
First pitch: Wednesday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago -137, Pittsburgh +127, Total: 5.5
The Pirates and Cubs will be fighting for a spot in the next round when the teams meet in Pittsburgh for the NL wildcard game on Wednesday.
The Cubs enter the postseason as hot as could be, winning each of their past eight regular season games. Their pitching has been phenomenal in that stretch, allowing a total of nine runs over the course of the winning streak. If the Cubs continue to get that type of production from their starting pitchers then they will be a tough out in these playoffs.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have been playing well themselves. Pittsburgh comes into this game after having won seven of its past 11 and the team defeated the Cubs in the most recent series the two clubs have played. Chicago, however, was 11-8 against the Pirates overall and 6-4 in Pittsburgh when the teams played this season.
Both teams will be sending out their aces on Tuesday, as RHP Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA, 236 K) of the Cubs will be going up against RHP Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60 ERA, 202 K) of the Pirates. Chicago will be extremely confident with Arrieta on the mound, as the team went 17-1 against the money line in the second half of this season when he started. The Pirates, however, are an impressive 42-14 against the money line after three or more consecutive home games on the year. The Cubs are entering this game at close to full strength and the Pirates will only be without SS Jung Ho Kang (Knee), but he will be missed greatly.
The Cubs are one of the hottest teams in baseball and pitching for them on Wednesday will be the hottest starter in baseball. Jake Arrieta has been the most dominant pitcher in the game lately, allowing just two earned runs over his past eight starts. In fact, he has allowed just four earned runs in his past 88.1 innings on the mound.
Arrieta has faced this Pirates team twice since the start of September and in those games, he has pitched a total of 15.0 innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out 14 batters. Chicago will be hoping that he can put forth another performance like those ones on Wednesday.
If Chicago is going to win this game, the team will need its stars to find some success against Cole. 1B Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31 HR, 101 RBI), OF Kyle Schwarber (.246, 16 HR, 43 RBI) and 3B Kris Bryant (.275, 26 HR, 99 RBI) are a combined 10-for-31 with no homers and just one RBI against the starter. They will really need to break through and be productive in this one.
One player to watch out for is SS Starlin Castro (.265, 11 HR, 69 RBI). Castro is 6-for-17 with four RBI against Cole and could really spark this team by adding some offense on Wednesday.
Gerrit Cole will be taking the ball in this elimination game for the Pirates and not only will he be looking to help his team advance, but he also will be out to prove that he can outduel Arrieta on Wednesday. The last time Cole faced the Cubs, he pitched seven innings of one-run baseball and struck out eight batters. The Pirates would certainly sign up for another performance like that on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh will really need a big game from OF Andrew McCutchen (.292, 23 HR, 96 RBI) if the team is going to advance. McCutchen is the only Pirates player who has had much success against Arrieta, going 8-for-23 with two double and an RBI against the pitcher. OF Pedro Alvarez (.243, 27 HR, 77 RBI), meanwhile, is the only player to have homered against the Cubs ace, but he is just 2-for-17 against him overall.
OF Starling Marte (.287, 19 HR, 81 RBI) is another guy that must show up in this one. He is 4-for-17 against Arrieta in his career, but the Pirates will need him to make a bigger impact.