All of the Chicago Cubs’ mojo from their 14-1 romp on Monday night was erased in an ugly 13-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, one that dropped the North Siders to just a half-game up on the Miami Marlins for the third and final NL Wild Card spot. Chicago (79-73) and Pittsburgh (71-81) will finish out this three-game set on Thursday night, with first pitch from Wrigley Field set for 7:40 p.m. ET. Johan Oviedo (8-14, 4.27 ERA) goes for the Bucs, while the Cubs counter with veteran righty Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.77).
Chicago enters as -166 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Pittsburgh at +140. The run total is set at 8.5.
Pirates-Cubs picks: Thursday, September 21
Out: RP Michael Fulmer (forearm), RP Adbert Alzolay (forearm), 1B/3B Jeimer Candelario (back), INF Nick Madrigal (hamstring)
Johan Oviedo vs. Kyle Hendricks
Oviedo has had a rocky September, with a 5.11 ERA and unsightly 2.35 WHIP over three starts this month. He failed to go even four innings against the Braves and Cardinals in the first two of those outings (eight runs over 7.1 frames) then surrendered four hits and five walks to the Yankees over five innings while somehow managing to hold New York to just one run. It’s also worth noting that New York is particularly bad against right-handed pitchers, and Oviedo might not get lucky twice against a Cubs lineup with far more dangerous lefty bats — he doesn’t have a whole lot to offer other than his slider, and when that’s not working, the floor is pretty low.
Hendricks has also had a rough go of it this month, posting a 4.96 ERA (and 21 hits) across three starts so far. Some of that is certainly bad BABIP luck — the righty’s command remains as good as ever, and he’s only allowed two homers over his last 16.1 innings — but it also points to how hittable the veteran can be when he’s not putting his pitches exactly where he wants them. Hendricks was great the last time he faced Pittsburgh, allowing three runs (just one of which was earned) on only two hits over 6.1 innings of work.
Chicago’s offense has begun to heat back up again, and I’m bullish on their chances tonight against a relatively limited pitcher in Oviedo — he’s been considerably worse against lefties than righties this year, which should bode well for guys like Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger. Even if Hendricks bounces back, he’s hardly an overwhelming arm, and this Pittsburgh lineup has been surprisingly punchy of late and more than capable of contributing a few runs to this total.
Pick: Over 8.5
Hendricks is due for a bit more luck in terms of batted balls finding gloves, and he’s the more reliable option on the mound tonight. Chicago has the deeper lineup and the sturdier pitcher, and they desperately need this win.
Pick: Cubs -166