The Chicago Cubs (67-60) regained sole control of a National League Wild Card spot with their 5-4 extra innings win over the Pirates (57-71) on Thursday. Now they’ll look to keep that momentum going when they take on Pittsburgh in the second game of this four-game series on Friday. They’ll send righty Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 3.83 ERA) to the mound, while Pittsburgh counters with All-Star Mitch Keller (10-8, 4.22). First pitch from PNC Park is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
The Cubs are -120 moneyline favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, while the Pirates are +100 underdogs. The total is set at 9.
Cubs-Pirates picks: Friday, August 25
Out: SP Marcus Stroman (right rib cartilage fracture), RP Brad Boxberger (right forearm strain)
Out: OF/C Henry Davis (right hand strain), RP Carmen Mlodzinski (right elbow soreness), RP Angel Perdomo (left elbow discomfort), SS Oneil Cruz (fractured left fibula)
Kyle Hendricks vs. Mitch Keller
Hendricks has stepped up in the time since Stroman has gotten hurt, as he’s tossed a quality start in five of his last seven outings and is coming off a start where he allowed one run in 6.1 innings against the Kansas City Royals. He’s in the 2nd percentile in fastball velocity, but ranks in the 97th percentile in exit velocity, the 91st percentile in hard-hit rate and the 96th percentile in walk rate and chase rate.
While Keller has struggled since the All-Star break, the first-time All-Star has now pieced together two solid starts in a row. After allowing two runs in six innings against the Reds, Keller led the Pirates to a 7-4 win over the Twins in his last start while allowing two runs in six innings. Keller has a 5.12 ERA in 38.2 career innings against the Cubs.
With Keller and Hendricks pitching so well as of late, I’m taking the under. Hendricks’ command of the strike zone is among the best in the game, while Keller’s heater is one of the more dominant pitches in the National League (when he’s on, at least). It’ll be close, but I’m backing the under.
Pick: Under 9
Keller leads the Pirates to an upset win. Yesterday’s game came down to extra innings (which can be a bit of a crapshoot thanks to the zombie runner), but I think the Pirates get it done in nine innings today.