NL Wild Card Preview: Cubs vs Pirates | Fueled by Sports
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NL Wild Card Preview: Cubs vs Pirates

The entire 2015 season for the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates will come down to the National League Wild Card game on Wednesday night. The Pirates and Cubs own the second and third best records in all of baseball respectfully. It is truly a shame that this matchup is the Wild Card game instead of a Divisional Series.

Vegas is predicting the Cubs as the slight favorite to win this game (money line -131). They have set the over/under at 5½ runs, which is too high in my opinion. We are in for a great pitcher’s duel in this one with two of the best pitchers in the league.

The last time the Cubs were in the playoffs was back in 2008. That year they were swept in three games in the National League Divisional Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Pirates are in the same position they were last season, hosting the Wild Card game. Last year they ran into Madison Bumgarner and the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

Pitchers:

Jake Arrieta has completed a Cy Young worthy season with a record of 22-6, a 1.77 ERA and has struck out 236 batters in 229 innings pitched. This will be Arrieta’s first time pitching in the playoffs in his career. Last time Arrieta took on the Pirates was September 27th in Chicago. That game Arrieta completed seven innings and only gave up one hit, struck out nine batters and did not give up a single run.

As good as Arrieta has been, Gerrit Cole has put together a nice year as well. Cole has 19 wins with eight losses with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings pitched. Cole last faced the Cubs on September 25th at Wrigley and pitched seven innings while giving up just one run on four hits and struck out eight batters.

Hitters to Watch:

Kris Bryant, one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year, will be a key player for the Cubs as they face Cole. Bryant finished his rookie year with a .275 BA with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs. Projected to hit third in the lineup, Bryant will be behind fellow rookie sensation Kyle Schwarber and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In the limited amount of at bats against Cole, Bryant is 3 for 9 (.333 BA) with four runs, two walks and six strikeouts. Look for Bryant to work the count and take pitches. He is at his best when he is drawing walks and getting on base.

2015 was Anthony Rizzo’s best statistical season in the majors. He had career highs for RBIs with 101, and hits with 162. Rizzo ended the year with 31 home runs with was one shy of last year’s career high 32. Rizzo has been the most consistent Cubs position player this season and will be expected to lead the team during their postseason run. Rizzo has the most hits against Cole this season, going 4 for 10 (.400 BA) and one stolen base.

The Pirates will need to rely on their star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to get to Arrieta. McCutchen has the best numbers against Arrieta on the entire team. He is 4 for 12 (.333 BA), with a double, two walks, one RBI and six strikeouts. The former MVP of the league has postseason experience which will come in handy against a young Cubs team. No one else on the Pirates have good numbers against Arrieta which is not surprising. McCutchen will need someone else to step up and get on base against Arrieta in order for the Pirates to have a shot at a victory.

Prediction:

In a low scoring game, I see Arrieta being too much to handle against the Pirates. Arrieta will need to pitch deep into this game for the Cubs to win. I think he delivers for the Cubs so they move on to the National League Division Series against the St Louis Cardinals on Friday.

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