The first-place Pittsburgh Pirates will be in Chicago tonight to kick off a three-game series with their division mate Cubs. We’ll preview the first game of the series before going over why I’ll be targeting a play for the first five innings in this one.
Over the last ten games, the Chicago Cubs have gone 4-6 overall, and on Sunday, when they had the opportunity to sweep the Giants, they ended up losing 13-3. Following their ten-run loss, the Cubs got a much-needed off day yesterday, but unfortunately for them, one off day is not enough time to fix the fact that they have only scored more than three runs in three of their last ten games. On Sunday, they could have made that four games, but they ended up leaving 31 runners on base in the loss.
As the team returns to Wrigley Field, they will have right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound to start the game. Taillon took a step backward in his last outing following his best start in a month, as he went 5 ⅓ innings and allowed four earned runs on five hits, including two home runs. For the season, the right-handers’ ERA is now at 7.02 in 42.3 innings.
Taillon will be taking on a Pirates offense that struggled in their final two games against the Mets but still came away with a series win. After scoring 14 runs on Friday, the Pirates could only muster three runs for the remainder of the series, culminating with a 2-1 win on Sunday. Behind a Jack Suwinski home run and Tucupita Marcano RBI, the Pirates gave Mitch Keller just enough run support to pick up the win.
Luis Ortiz will look to keep the pitching momentum from Keller’s start going tonight as he’ll toe the rubber for Pittsburgh. Oritz has made five starts this season, but his last outing was a five-inning relief appearance against the A’s in which he allowed two runs on ten hits. Those two runs brought the young right-handers' ERA to 4.23 in 27.7 innings of work.
For my play in this one, I’ll be taking the over of 4.5 for the first five innings. Pittsburgh is averaging the fourth most runs per game in the first five innings on the road this season, while Chicago is averaging the 11th most when playing at home. On top of the success these teams have scoring early in games, both pitchers have struggled with giving up hard contact and limiting runs.
Entering tonight, Jameson Taillon is in the 14th percentile in expected batting average, 11th percentile in barrel percentage, and 42nd percentile in hard-hit percentage. Not only does the right-hander have an 8.27 ERA at home this season, but he has a 5.06 ERA or higher in four of the first five innings. With opponents hitting .333 against him at home and the Pirates' success early in games this season, I like them to put some runs on the board.
Conversely, Luis Ortiz is in the 5th percentile in hard hit percentage, 3rd percentile in expected batting average, and his expected ERA is currently 7.41. Ortiz has a 4.50 ERA the first time through a batting order, and his current expected FIP on the road is 6.00, so the Cubs should also have a fair share of scoring opportunities early on.
F5 Over 4.5