The Chicago Cubs start NL Cy Young contender Justin Steele on Wednesday against Pittsburgh, a game the Cubs can’t afford to lose as they chase a wild card spot, and they are solid favorites on the MLB odds.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs | 2023 MLB Expert Analysis MyBookie Sportsbook
MLB Week 24: Monday September 18 – Sunday September 24, 2023
How to Bet Pittsburgh at Chicago MLB Odds & TV Info
When: Wednesday, 7:40 PM ET
Where: Wrigley Field
Probable pitchers (away/home): Mitch Keller/Justin Steele
TV: MLB Extra Innings
Stream/gameday audio: https://www.mlb.com/live-stream-games/
Opening MLB Lines: Cubs -170, Pirates +150
Why Bet on Pittsburgh?
Who knows what might have been this season for Pittsburgh if young star shortstop Oneil Cruz wasn’t hurt early in the season. He was hoping to return at some point but Cruz has run into a couple of minor setbacks in his recovery from early-April surgery to repair a fractured left fibula and will now shift his focus toward being 100 percent healthy for the beginning of the 2024 campaign.
Pirates shortstops have posted a .644 OPS with 16 home runs, 10 steals and -0.8 fWAR since Cruz went down. As a rookie, by comparison, Cruz had a .744 OPS, 17 home runs, 10 steals and 1.1 fWAR in 87 games. The season is likely over as well for outfielder Andrew McCutchen, on the IL with an Achilles injury. McCutchen turned in a solid 2023 campaign, slashing .256/.378/.397 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases over 112 games.
The Pirates are going to finish under .500 but the future might be bright with Cruz healthy next year and the team playing at an 84-win pace (28-26) over its past 54 games.
“We’re very optimistic in the direction we’re going,” GM Ben Cherington said this week. “We believe that if we do our jobs well enough — by we, I mean literally all of us, starting with myself down to every member of our staff [and] our players, we all have a job to do to help us get better and get into the position you’re talking about. Not just the position you’re talking about, but frankly, beyond that position. We want to win more than 84 games. That’s what we’re building toward.”
It’s ace right-hander Mitch Keller (12-9, 4.04 ERA) on the hill Wednesday. Keller earned the win last Thursday, allowing two hits and one walk over eight scoreless innings against Washington while striking out seven. Keller was spectacular, allowing only two singles — and one of those came in the first at-bat of the game. It was a great bounce-back performance after the right-hander had matched his season high with eight runs allowed in his previous outing. It marked the third time this season he’s gone at least eight innings. Keller has won three of his last four decisions (spanning five starts), posting a 37:6 K:BB over that stretch.
However, Keller’s velocity has trended down in recent starts, a pattern that continued against the Nationals. His four-seam fastball was 1.5 mph slower than his season average. His sinker was down 2.0 mph. His cutter was down 0.9 mph. Keller has already thrown career-high 182 2/3 innings — and counting.
“I think just being able to go out there and use all the pitches that I can use just keeps them off balance,” Keller said of his drop in mph. “So, when we get into this time of year, we can use different pitches to get hitters off balance. Velocity is not the primary thing. It’s the execution of the pitches and making different pitches look like different things so we can get them off balance.”
Keller’s lone 2023 start vs. the Cubs was on Aug. 25 in Pittsburgh and he got the win, shutting out the Cubbies on four hits over eight innings.
Bet Pirates to Win Today
MyBookie Betting Lines for the Games
Why Bet on Chicago?
The Cubs have dropped three straight series for the first time since losing four straight sets May 8-21. Still, Chicago is 12-4-2 in its last 18 series dating to July 17.
Closer Adbert Alzolay and infielder/DH Jeimer Candelario are on the injured list. Alzolay (forearm) played catch over the weekend as he deals with a right forearm strain. There’s a chance Alzolay can return to the Cubs before the end of the regular season, though. Over 63 innings out of the pen, he’s produced the best numbers of his career, posting a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 26.4% strikeout rate with 22 saves.
Candelario is out with a back issue and his return is TBA but won’t be in this series. He had been a difference maker when he was first acquired at the trade deadline from Washington. In his first 18 games, Candelario was slashing .349/.423/.571/170 wRC+. In his last 18 games, he was only slashing .109/.215/.309/40 wRC+. Another infielder, Nick Madrigal, was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday with a right hamstring strain. Jacob Young was recalled from Triple-A to take his spot.
Chicago’s 79 victories this season already surpasses its output from all of last year in which the club finished 74-88. The Cubs are 29-36 (.446) in games decided by two or fewer runs and 49-35 (.583) in games decided by three or more runs.
The team shifted around its rotation to put ace lefty Justin Steele (16-4) into Wednesday’s spot in place of Jameson Taillon. Steele allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five over six innings to take the loss last Friday versus the Diamondbacks. The six runs allowed matched Steele’s season high, as well as the total of runs he gave up over his last 33 innings across five starts. The loss was his first since July 16, and it was just the third time all year he’s allowed multiple home runs. Steele has a 2.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 164:35 K:BB through 165 innings over 28 starts.
Steele will make his sixth career appearance (fifth start) vs. Pittsburgh. He is 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA (10 ER/23.2 IP), including 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA (3 ER/5.0 IP) in two games (one start) at Wrigley Field. Steele has held Pirates hitters to a career .233 average (21-for-90).
Bet Cubs to Win Today
MyBookie Betting Lines for the Games
Cubs 4, Pirates 3
NL Central Standings
|Updated at September 20th|
W: Wins | L: Losses | %: Winning Percentage | GB: Games Behind | STRK: Current Streak | HOME: Record at Home | AWAY: Record When Away
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