Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview and Pick

Chicago Cubs (5-3) - Rich Hill -135, 9 O/U at Pittsburgh Pirates (3-5) - Matt Morris +115, 9 O/U, PNC Park, 7 PM EST, Thursday
by Badger of Predictem.com

Its taken 27 innings for the Chicago Cubs to win the first two games of their three-game series with Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are hoping to save the final game and avoid the sweep in the finale Thursday night.

The Cubs won 6-4 in 15 innings yesterday (10-8 in 12 innings Tuesday) to win their fourth game in a row and put themselves on the verge of taking all three games of the Pirates home opening series.

Veteran right-hander Matt Morris will try and stop the bleeding for the Pirates, when he locks up against Cubs lefty Rich Hill. One thing is for sure, both starters will be asked to go deep into the game to save on an already taxed bullpen. If they cant, this one could get ugly.

Baseball Bookies have opened the game with the Cubs as -135 favorites on the moneyline, with Pittsburgh as +115 dogs. The over/under total opened at 9.

The Pirates are hoping the Matt Morris of old shows up to PNC Park Thursday. Morris at one time was 10-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts versus the Cubbies, but since leaving St. Louis and struggling with injuries, the right-hander is just the opposite at 2-6 with an 8.22 ERA. Morris received no decision (5 IP, 8H, 4R, 5.40 ERA) in his first start this year versus Florida last Friday, a game the Marlins went on to win 5-4.

Hill pitched well in his first start this year, allowing just two runs in his six innings of work against Houston. Hill (0-0, 3.00) faced the Pirates three times last year and went 1-1 with one no decision. The Pirates won two of those three starts, but Hill averaged six innings per start so he should be able to give the Cubs the long, deep game their bullpen so desperately needs.


BET ON THE FIRST FIVE INNINGS OF BASEBALL GAMES AT BODOG
(THIS KEEPS BULLPENS OUT OF THE EQUATION!)

If Hill and/or Morris are off their games, this game could turn into a softball game. Not just because both bullpens are tired, but also because both offenses are scoring runs in bunches. Chicago has scored 28 runs in their last four games, and Pittsburgh is riding an eight- game string where they have scored 46 runs (4th in NL).

Not only are Cubbies Derek Lee (8-for-18, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Aramis Ramirez (four hits, four RBI) red hot right now, but Lee has strong career numbers versus Morris as well (.355, 4 HR, 3 2B, 8 RBI in 31 career at-bats). The Cubs have gone over in both games (4-3-1 for the season) with Lee and Ramirez both rolling at the dish.

Pittsburghs offense has been scoring runs despite a lack of production from their 3- and 4-hitters, Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche. Both were a combined 6-for-45 (.133) with no RBIs until yesterday when both hit their first homeruns of the season.

Some betting trends to note for Chicago are the fact that the Cubs have come in under the total in 10 of Hills last 12 road starts, opposite of the current offensive production. More importantly, the Cubs are 8-3 in his last 11 starts overall.

Badgers Pick: Im bucking the trend in this one and taking the over at 9. Hill and Morris may be able to give both bullpens enough innings, but theyll give up a lot of hits (and runs) in the process. Take the over of 9.