MLB Baseball: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 3, 2021

by Chuck Sommers

Game time: 2:20 p.m. ET
Venue: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Where to watch: AT&T SportsNet-PIT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks

DraftKings: Cubs -110, Pirates -110
Caesars: NL

Season record (entering Thursday)
Cubs: 59-75 (4th place, NL Central)
Pirates: 48-85 (Last place, NL Central)

Larry Ness closed August having earned +$21,301 (at $100/unit) in MLB since Opening Day. He opened September with a 2-1 Wednesday (+$857), highlighted by his 10* win on Boston over Tampa Bay. 'Light' Thursday MLB card but you "won't want to miss" Larry's 10* Division Total of the Year (all O/U plays 8-4-1 in August MLB).

Pirates - Cubs preview and analysis

Recent form (entering Thursday)
Pirates: 4-6 in last 10
Cubs: 5-5 in last 10

The race for last place in the National League Central has never felt like an actual competition.

Not that the Chicago Cubs have to worry about the Pittsburgh Pirates looking over their shoulder, but what else are we to talk about with two bad teams entering September?

MLB Draft talk can only get you so far.

The Cubs and Pirates will play the second game of their four-game series at Wrigley Field on Friday. There’s a 10-game gap between the 4th and 5th place teams in the Central, so at least that part of the standings could be solidified by the time this series is over.

Game 1 of the set is Thursday, and has not started at the time of publishing.

The Cubs are beginning a 10-game homestand that includes matchups against the Cincinnati Reds starting next Monday, and a three-gamer a week from Friday against the San Francisco Giants, where Kris Bryant will make his return to Chicago since being traded at the deadline.

Chicago enters its series with the lowly Pirates having won three of four, coming off a two-game sweep against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Cubs held the Twins to one total run through two games and pulled within one victory of 60 on the season.

A 60th victory in September isn’t something normally celebrated, but the Cubs are to be commended for staying somewhat competitive since the trade deadline. Starting the new era since trading Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo has been a grueling process. The Cubs, through all of that, have found ways to get some impressive wins.

One of those came Aug. 28 at the Chicago White Sox. Ultimately the Cubs lost the series, but the Cubs won 7-0 on that Saturday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Cubs got 8.1 spectacular IP from SP Alec Mills, who will start Friday in his first outing since that four-hit gem against the White Sox a week ago. Mills had only three strikeouts, but he stayed around for 103 pitches and walked only two in the win.

The Cubs are coming off a 3-0 win at Minnesota on Wednesday (carried from a 3-1 win Tuesday night) that saw a combined six hits, and all runs came on one swing in the top of the third. Frank Schwindel turned on a 1-1 fastball high and inside and drove it to left field. That was all the offense the Cubs needed with Justin Steele and Adbert Alzolay combining for a two-hitter and eight strikeouts.

The Pirates come to Wrigley having lost four of five entering Thursday after winning five of their previous seven. Pittsburgh just wrapped up a two-game road set against the White Sox, capped off with a 6-3 loss Wednesday. They’ll return to PNC Park following this trip.

Pittsburgh got a solid day from its lineup, tallying eight hits and all but two players registering in that column. Pirates starting pitcher Max Kranick had a strong start through three innings, but a three-run home run off the bat of Gavin Sheets ruined that run. Kranick gave up two more runs in the fifth before being pulled after allowing eight hits in 4.2 innings.

Steven Brault will take the mound for the Pirates at first pitch, who have not won a start with Brault pitching this season. He’s 0-3 with a 4.57 ERA and a WHIP of 1.38; he allowed 7 ER (2 BB) in three innings his last outing Aug. 28 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates have scored a total of four runs in Brault’s starts.


Based on the lines from Thursday’s game, the money will ultimately favor the Cubs, but it’s not a runaway. However, the Cubs are just the better team, and the pitching matchup ultimately favors Chicago with timely hitting to follow. We like the Cubs in this one. Cubs win 5-2.

Betting trends

When the moneyline is -110 or higher in the Cubs’ favor, they’re 33-22 (+2.9 net games) this season.

The Cubs odds are just as greater when favored between -125 to -175, as they’re 21-11 (+4.4 net games).

Pittsburgh is 42-81 (-15.1 units) as an underdog this season of at least +100.

Key injuries

Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (hand, day-to-day)

Cubs: C Wilson Contreras (knee, 10-day IL), SP Matt Duffy (neck, day-to-day)

Players to watch

Pirates: Third baseman Colin Moran has been good for plenty of contact over the last 14 games. He enters Thursday with a .340 average since Aug. 17 to go with one homer and six RBI.

Cubs: Rookie slugger Patrick Wisdom has made the most of his first full season with the Cubs. The 30-year-old has seven homers and 13 RBI in his last 11 games despite batting .244.

Projected lineup

Kevin Newman (R) SS
Ke'Bryan Hayes (R) 3B
Bryan Reynolds (S) CF
Colin Moran (L) 1B
Jacob Stallings (R) C
Yoshi Tsutsugo (L) RF
Cole Tucker (S) 2B
Anthony Alford (R) LF
Steven Brault (L) P

Rafael Ortega (L) CF
Frank Schwindel (R) 1B
Ian Happ (S) LF
Patrick Wisdom (R) 3B
Jason Heyward (L) RF
Austin Romine (R) C
Sergio Alcantara (S) SS
Andrew Romine (S) 2B
Alec Mills (R) P

Statistical leaders

Batting average: Bryan Reynolds (.298)
Hits: Bryan Reynolds (139)
Home runs: Bryan Reynolds (21)
RBI: Bryan Reynolds (77)
Stolen bases: Gregory Polanco (14)
Wins: Three tied (5)
Saves: Richard Rodriguez (14)

Batting average: Patrick Wisdom (.252)
Hits: Wilson Contreras (78)
Home runs: Patrick Wisdom (25)
RBI: Patrick Wisdom (50)
Stolen bases: Rafael Ortega (8)
Wins: Kyle Hendricks (14)
Saves: N/A
ERA: Kyle Hendricks (4.43)

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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