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October 7, 2015 (2:00 PM ET)

Take Pittsburgh Pirates as underdogs (+118) on the Money Line against Chicago Cubs risking 3% of bankroll to win 3.54%.
(Cole and Arrieta must start for wager to have action)

There is no question that both pitchers in this contest are the unquestioned 'Aces' of their respective teams. Jake Arrieta has had a breakout season and is certainly in the running for the CY Young award this season, but it's important not to just get caught up in the fact that this matchup has more to it than just the starting pitchers. Unlike yesterday's contest between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, we don't believe it will be the starting pitchers that decide the outcome. It will be the other factors such as the bullpens, defense and experience that will ultimately decide who wins this contest & those are areas that we feel give the home field the edge.

The Chicago Cubs have undoubtedly had a great season under Joe Maddon. They have played much better than many expected and have a good core group of young talent to build around; however we still feel that they are a year or two away from making a splash in the playoffs. They are still a young team, but have not had the experience that their counterparts have. The Cubs are essentially in the same place that the Pirates were 3 seasons ago! The Cubs will have their chance to turn the corner; however we don't believe it will be this season. The experience gained and confidence built will no doubt carry over into next season, however this is where we believe it ends for them.

The Pirates are no strangers to this type of game. The last 3 years straight they have played in the Wildcard game and know what it takes to win this one game playoff. This is a game that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a franchise; knowing that an entire season's body of work all comes down to these final 9 innings. For some less experienced teams, the pressure to perform becomes too much and extremely difficult to deal with. With the Pittsburgh players already having played in this type of environment, we believe that will pay dividends tonight.

It seems that all anyone wants to talk about is how impressive Jake Arrieta's season has been and they've nearly forgotten that Gerrit Cole has had a great season of his own and in fact has more postseason experience. Arrieta will be making his playoffs debut and while we believe he'll be fine, Cole is certainly at no disadvantage and will even have the experience edge as he has started a crucial win or go home Wild Card game before (2013). He was put in that critical role in what was his rookie season at the time and shows how much confidence this Pirates organization and Clint Hurdle have in him. Nerves could surely affect Arrieta in this situation, especially in the first couple of innings.

Let's not forget that this game is being played in PNC Park, a place where the Pirates have had a lot of success this season. Pittsburgh is 53-28 on the season and just recently allowed the Cubs to take 3 out of 4 games of their series from them in this venue. All of that has been taken into consideration with the odds. The fact that Pittsburgh has only been listed as an underdog at home this season a total of 6 times out of 81 contests, speaks to the testament of how difficult it is for teams to pick up a win in this venue. In our opinions, the Pirates should not be the underdogs in this situation.

They have the home field advantage, they are the team with the most experience in this situation and they also have the better fielding and defense. They have turned in 177 double plays compared to Cubs' 120 which ranks last in NL! Those double-plays can be a total momentum shifters in a one and done game like this and Bucs are likely to get them more than Chicago.

The Pirates also have the best outfield in baseball in our opinion with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco pouncing on every ball hit out there! Something that Kyle Schwarber (catcher) who often plays in the outfield or rookie Kris Bryant who has been played out there by Maddon don't do as well nor do Soler or Denorfia as they lack the speed that the Pittsburgh trio have.

The Bucs have also won a lot of 1-run games this season (36-17) and that's not just by blind luck. It's been through great pitching! Their bullpen includes top notch hurlers like Mark Melancon who leads the Majors in 'saves' this season and he's backed up by Joakim Soria, Hughes, Tony Watson and Caminero. No team has a better set of relievers in our opinion. Unlike Arrieta who will likely be shouldering a lot of responsibility in this contest, Cole doesn't have to win the game for Bucs on his own. As long as Cole can give his team 5 or 6 solid innings, the Pirates will have a good chance in this contest they'll turn the ball over to their reliable relievers while the Cubs have the likes of Fernando Rodney and Pedro Strop who have both had a few hiccups this season. Chicago has done great to get to this stage but now with the vast majority of players making their playoffs debut, nerves could be a factor and one costly error by someone like Starlin Castro could well decide this game! We believe this game will be decided by all the factors mentioned above that few will likely pay enough attention to and the advantage goes to the home team that is playing in the Wild Card game for the 3rd straight year.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Pirates are 62-34 after a win this season.
  • Gerrit Cole is 21-5 in home games over the last 2 seasons.
  • Pirates have won 8 of Cole's nine starts vs. the Cubs!
  • Pirates are 78-48 against right-handed starters this season.



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