Today’s June 20th MLB Preview – Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Our in-house MLB expert, Billy J (+0.51 units), gives his best bet for today!

Today’s Monday slate is a tad bit limited and pretty chalky. There is not a ton of value I see and laying a run line doesn’t seem like a risk I want to take today; especially on a Monday with new series starting and lots of other intangibles. Hard to get a read to say the least. I looked to pivot to perhaps a money line two-team parlay to get plus odds, but I am not going to look for the double dip in trusting the likes of a rookie Red Sox pitcher, Corbin Burnes facing Miles Mikolas who was one out away from a no-hitter in his last start, Darvish almost at -200, etc.

So where am I turning my attention to? That’s right, the Cubs and Pirates matchup today at PNC Park. It is the battle of cold vs colder. The baseball version of the Ice Bowl. Why on earth would I even pick this game? For starters and as mentioned above, it is slim pickings today. But the more I looked at this game and the more value I started to see, I’m definitely comfortable picking the Pirates here for a 1-unit standard play. Here are my top three reasons for this bonanza of a Monday pick:

Reason 1:

Well, it starts with the Pirates calling up 6’7” top prospect Oneil Cruz for today’s game. At his height, Cruz is an unusually tall player to be at shortstop. Players that tall are typically pitching some serious heat or holding down the fort at first base. Cruz has some outfield experience in the minors and the Pirates may tap into the versatility down the line. However, Cruz will come up and play shortstop. A position that is in desperate need of an upgrade.

Reason 2:

Is it crazy to say that a starting pitcher who is 0-7 with a 4.50 season ERA is maybe, well, not that bad? Today’s Pirates starter is J.T. Brubaker. I’m not one to back Brubaker and if the original line is right or I get a nice live line, I am fading him first chance. Throw away a recent clunker versus the Diamondbacks earlier in the month and we are looking at five earned runs in his last 4 starts. April was a month to not remember and starting with his back-to-back starts against the Reds in early May, Brubaker has started to steadily move down in ERA. From where he started to his 4.50 current ERA, it is remarkable. All that he needs now is to get that goose egg out of the win column and what a perfect opportunity this is.

Brubaker has faced the Cubs twice this year. In his first appearance Brubaker only threw for 3 innings as he left the game early due to illness. In his second start, Brubaker took the loss but had his highest strikeout total of the year when he hit double-digit strikeouts with 10. There is familiarity in facing this lineup whereas his opponent on the bump in Caleb Kilian (0-1, 8.00 ERA) is making just his third start in the majors and his first ever road start.

Reason 3:

I’m not going to get too creative here, but when you have two teams that are this cold, I’ll gladly take the home team at a good price. The Cubs finally shook a 10-game losing streak last Friday when they actually ended the Braves 14-game winning streak. The Pirates in their bitter coldness have lost 11 of their past 13 games. A jolt of energy yesterday from outfielder Jack Suwinski (three home runs and a walk-off) helped avoid a three-game home sweep against the Giants yesterday. The value too as well is that the Cubs have not won a road game in all of June. Their last road win was against their interleague rival White Sox on May 28th.

This game is not going to stand out for many today in the betting world, but it sticks out for me. I’ll go with the Pirates here who are coming off a walk-off win, have one of their potential core foundation pieces being called up in Cruz and a starter in Brubaker who has been pitching well as of late who is due for his first win of the year. 

The Pick: Pirates -109 currently on BetRivers

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