In as long of a season as the MLB is, it can be a stretch at times to say a game is a must win or a series is a must-win, but with NL Central yet to have a team take control of it and with how the Cubs have played this season a sweep tonight would be huge. We’ll preview the final game of the series before going over why I’ll be backing the home favorites in this one.
The Pirates may still hold a one-game lead in the division, but they have the same record over the past ten games as the Cubs. In half of Pittsburgh’s last ten games, they have allowed four or more runs, including the first two games in this series in which they’ve allowed a total of 21.
In last night’s 10-6 loss, the Cubs had 13 hits, and only one went for extra bases. Mike Tauchman and Danby Swanson had three hits apiece as the Cubs did most of their damage off Roansy Contreras, who allowed five earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings.
As they go for the sweep, the Cubs will hand the ball to their best starter this season, Marcus Stroman. The veteran right-hander is fresh off his seventh win, as he went 6 ⅔ innings with five punchouts and two earned runs allowed. Stroman has not allowed more than two runs in each of his last five starts, so he comes in tonight with a 2.45 ERA in 85.7 innings.
Stroman faces a Pirates lineup that came out of the gates swinging last night as they scored five runs in the first four innings but could not do anything after that. Pittsburgh ended the game with 12 hits, including home runs from Carlos Santana, Andrew McCutchen, and Austin Hedges. Even with their five extra-base hits, the Pirates' offense could not keep up with the runs their bullpen allowed.
Johan Oviedo will take the ball for the final game of this series, as he is set to make his 14th start. The right-hander allowed two earned runs in his last outing but took the loss, which brought his record to 3-5. In 71.3 innings, Oviedo has pitched to a 4.16 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 34 walks.
Chicago comes into tonight listed at (-155) on the moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. Stroman has been dominant when pitching at Wrigley this season, and since the start of June, the Cubs have also been crushing in their historic home ballpark. With Oviedo sporting a 4.60 ERA on the road, I think the Cubs are in a prime spot to secure the sweep.
Since June 1st, the Cubs rank 3rd in wRC+ and OPS against right-handed pitching at home, which has been on full display in this series. Opponents are hitting .263 against Oviedo when he’s pitching on the road, and his excepted FIP in this spot is up to 4.97. Between his walk rate of 14.4% and BAbip of .322 on the road, Chicago is in a prime spot to put runs on the board.
Marcus Stroman has displayed opposite numbers to Oviedo in terms of tonight’s matchup. The veteran has a batting average against of .159 to go along with his 2.15 ERA when pitching at home. Stroman has displayed a 16.9% difference between his strikeout percentage and walk percentage on his home mound, and even with the Pirates ranked 12th in wRC+ since the start of the month; I think this is a bad matchup for them.
Chicago Cubs (-155)