The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates open a four-game weekend series on Thursday, 8/16/18 at the PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Cubs have taken the lead in the National League Central this week and they will be trying to strengthen their grip of the lead against a division rival. As of 8/15/18, the Cubs have a three-game lead over the second place Milwaukee Brewers and a 4.5 games advantage over third place St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Pirates find themselves 9 games behind the leader.

Keeping The Lead

After splitting their two-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs hope to keep their divisional lead as they commence a four-game set against divisional rival Pittsburgh.

In the Cubs’ last game, Anthony Rizzo returned to the cleanup spot in style as the 29-year-old drilled a home run, delivered three runs and stole two bases in an 8-4 win over the Brewers on Wednesday. The win restored the Cubs’ three-game edge over the second-place Brewers.

John Lester gets the nod to start on top of the Hill for the Chicago Cubs. The 12-year veteran left-hander has started 24 games this season and has an impressive 12-5 record with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. Lester is 6th in the National League in both wins and win percentage at 12 and .706, respectively.

In his last start, Lester took the loss against the Nationals on 8/11/18 as he allowed 9 runs (including 8 earned runs) on 10 hits and one walk with five strikeouts in just 3.2 innings pitched. After a strong start to the season, Lester has been free falling after the all-star break. He has lost his last three decisions and has given up at least five runs in four out of five starts during the second half of the season. On Thursday, He looks to recover the form from his first 19 starts which earned him an ERA of 2.58 and a WHIP of 1.19

What’re the Odds?

Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates 8/16/18 Odds
Odds: Cubs -102, Pirates -108
Odds from as of 8/15/18

Third Straight Loss

The Pittsburgh Pirates have dropped three straight games after their 4-6 defeat to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. Josh Harrison had three hits for Pittsburgh who were just 2-15 with runners in scoring position. After a 1-2-3 opening inning, Pittsburgh had at least two runners in the next three innings. Elias Diaz homered to start the 4th inning while Gregory Polanco put the Pirates up 4-2 with a two-run single. They did not score from there though as the Minnesota Bullpen threw 5.1 shutout innings.

The loss dropped the Pirates further back in the team standings but have a chance to gain ground as they host the division leaders in a four-game set.

For the Pirates, it is going to be 31-year-old Dominican Republic pitcher Ivan Nova who will start on the mound. The right-handed Nova has figured in 22 starts this season and has posted a record of 7-6 with an ERA of 4.42 and a WHIP of 1.31.

In his last outing, Nova got the “W” during the Pirates’ 10-5 win over the San Francisco Giants last Thursday, August 9th. In that game, Nova allowed two runs on three hits and two walks while fanning three batters over six innings of pitching work. The win was Nova’s second in four starts after the All-Star break. He’s allowed just one home run in those four starts after giving up 19 homers in his 18 starts during the first half of the season.

Who Wins?

The Cubs are 23-5 in Lester’s last 28 starts in a series opener. They are also 35-17 in his last 52 starts against their National League Central rivals. Chicago is 7-3 in their last 10 games against right-handers, 6-1 in Lester’s last seven starts away from home and undefeated in Lester’s last 6 games following a game where he pitched less than four innings.

The Pirates meanwhile are just 2-5 in their last 7 home games of this series and 2-5 in their last seven games played on a Thursday. Against the Pirates, Lester is 2-1 this season while Nova is 2-0 against the Cubs.

We can’t help but notice Lester’s struggles since the All-Star break but remember that this period is just five games and you can’t just sleep on his 19 games brilliance during the first half of the season. He also has a strong 7-2 record away from home and is 26-18 in his career during the month of August.

Betting Prediction

Pittsburgh is coming home after a hard fought nine game road swing. They are hanging tough in the standings but the Cubs have played better overall this season. Chicago has won six of the eleven meetings between these divisional rivals this season.

We’re picking the Chicago Cubs to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on 8/16/18.

Place Your Bet Here

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