Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NL wild-card game preview: Pirates host Cubs


By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
October 7 2015, 2:00 PM EST
@PGordonPBR

Start Time: 8:00 PM EST.
TV: TBS
Starting Pitchers: Geritt Cole (19-8, 2.60) vs. Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77)
Vegas Line: Cubs favored -127 O/U at 5.5

The Cubs offense struck out more than any other club this year, and more than all but two teams ever — the 2013 Astros and 2010 Diamondbacks. They also ranked fifth in the NL in home runs and second in walk rate. The team's 97 wins were the third-most in the majors this year; no Cubs team has won more since the 1935 squad that lost to the Tigers in the World Series.

Jake Arrieta enters this game with an active 22-inning scoreless streak and has not allowed a run in his last three starts, including one against the Pirates in which he held them to a pair of base runners and struck out nine over seven innings. Overall, he finished 3–1 with a 0.75 ERA in five starts against the Pirates this season.

As for the Pirates, Gerrit Cole finished fourth in the NL with a 148 ERA+ and went 4–0 with a 2.36 ERA over his final five starts of the regular season, all of them Pirates wins and two of them coming against the Cubs. On the season, Cole posted a 2.14 ERA in four starts against Chicago, striking out 32 men against just four walks in 25 1/3 innings and posting a WHIP of just 0.95.

With such a stellar duo scheduled to start, it's likely the contest will fall into the bullpens and that's where the Pirates hold a significant advantage.

The Pirates’ 2.67 bullpen ERA was the best in the majors this season, and their 14 blown saves were tied for the fewest in the NL.

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