After Jordan Wicks carried them to a win his first MLB start, the Chicago Cubs (68-61) will look to keep pace in the NL Wild Card race and nab a series win in the rubber match against the Pittsburgh Pirates (58-72) on Sunday afternoon. First pitch from PNC Park is set for 1:35 p.m. ET. Javier Assad (2-2, 3.13 ERA) will go for Chicago, while Pittsburgh counters with lefty Bailey Falter (0-7, 5.13).
The Cubs enter as narrow -118 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Pirates at -102. The run total is set at 9.
Cubs-Pirates picks: Sunday, August 27
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)
Javier Assad vs. Bailey Falter
Assad has been a god-send for a beleaguered Cubs rotation, filling in for an injured Stroman with a 2.86 ERA over four outings so far this month. His sinkers in, cutters away routine is keeping hitters off-balance (81st percentile in average exit velocity), and he throws a ton of strikes and lets Chicago’s very strong infield defense make plays behind him. The righty held the Tigers to two runs over 5.1 innings last weekend.
Falter’s season-long numbers are ugly, but the lefty has pitched much better of late, with a 3.26 ERA for the month and just two combined runs allowed with 13 Ks in 11.1 innings over his last two starts. That stretch has coincided with improved fastball velocity and good pitch separation with his curve, slider and changeup, avoiding the heart of the plate and earning easy outs.
The Cubs racked up 10 runs in Saturday’s win, but this has been a bottom-five offense in baseball over the last couple of weeks, and Falter’s current form makes him a far tougher challenge than rookie righty (Osvaldo Bido) the team faced yesterday. If Assad churns out yet another quality start, Falter should do more than enough to keep us under this total — Friday resulted in a 2-1 final, after all.
Pick: Under 9
For as solid as Falter has been of late, Assad is still the more trustworthy option on the mound, and Chicago has the far deeper and more dangerous lineup — they deserve to be more significant favorites here even with their shaky recent form.