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Will Pirates’ Park Be “Casa Nova” Again?

Updated: .June 17, 2017

By Charles Jay

The Chicago Cubs need to see what they can do to get things going with 88 games left on their schedule. But these kinds of things don’t happen magically; they need to get their starting pitching AND their offense to come along. On Saturday they will play the Pittsburgh Pirates on a National League game that is set to begin at 8:15 PM ET at PNC Park. Remember that if you are an America’s Bookie customer, you can take advantage of two different “Live Betting” options in your user-friendly sportsbook interface, and stay involved with the action throughout the evening.

The Cubs have to be classified as a disappointment, as would be expected when you have won the World Series, gotten yourself posted as the favorites to do it again, and are sitting at the .500 marl. And we can’t imagine that anyone though they could find themselves behind the Milwaukee Brewers at this juncture. They have gotten subpar seasons out of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and others in the starting lineup; they are underachieving greatly in the starting rotation, and have Kyle Hendricks, a Cy Young contender last year, and Ben Zobrist, the MVP of the World Series, on the disabled list.

They erupted for six runs in the ninth inning on Friday, beating the Pirates 9-5 and beating up the Pittsburgh bullpen, but even so, they haven’t done all that well on the road, with a 13-18 record. The Cubs are also hitting just .228 away from home.

Pittsburgh goes with Ivan Nova, who has been one of those well-known “reclamation” projects for pitching coach Ray Searage, and he comes in with a record of 6-4 and an ERA of 2.83. The Cubs will send Jake Arrieta to the mound, and with a 4.68 ERA (and 6-4 record), he is having a struggle keeping up with his pace of the last couple of seasons.

In the baseball odds that have been posted on this game, the Cubs are the favorites on the road:

Chicago Cubs (Arrieta) -130
Pittsburgh Pirates (Nova) +110

Cubs -1.5 Runs +130
Pirates +1.5 Runs -150

Over 8.5 Runs -120
Under 8.5 Runs +100

Arrieta is very capable of an outstanding outing, but they are coming with less frequency. Of course, no one would expect that he could duplicate his magical 2015, as he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and won the Cy Young. He dropped off last season, although he was extremely credible (18-8, 3.10 ERA). But this year he has not been hitting the mark as often, even though he does have three starts in his last five with “Game Scores” of 60 or better. But when you look at his hits allowed per nine innings (9.1, as opposed to 6.1 over the previous two seasons), his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.04, and the WHIP ratio of 1.33, these are numbers that are not in the least impressive. And he’s coming off a relatively rough start, as he gave up four runs in 4-1/3 innings against Colorado.

Nova has slowed down a bit after a very fast start, but still has some very nice numbers to bring to the table. No one in baseball has issued fewer walks per nine innings (0.71) and his WHIP ratio is seventh best in the big leagues. He can go deep into games, as only six starting pitchers have worked more innings than he has, and his strikeout-walk ratio is seventh best – even though he is not a guy who blows the ball by batters, he succeeds in pitching to contact. He gave up one hit in six innings against Miami in his last outing.

Arrieta has an 8.61 ERA over his last four starts against the Pirates, surrendering seven round-trippers. That’s obviously not a good history. He led the league in wild pitches last season and is leading again this year. That’s a departure from where he’s been in previous seasons. The Pittsburgh bullpen hasn’t necessarily developed an ace closer since the loss of Mark Melancon (now with the Giants). But they have still managed to convert 18 of 21 save situations at home. We see the value here with Pittsburgh, as the Charles Jay / America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Saturday night.

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