MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

Date/Time: September 16, 7:00 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Jake Arrieta (19-6, 1.99) vs. AJ Burnett (8-5, 3.14)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Chicago -145

Total: 7

A couple of good baseball games were played on Tuesday by the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won the first one with ace Gerrit Cole and the Cubs won the second one with Jon Lester. The “ace” label for the Cubs goes to Jake Arrieta, who has a shot to pick up his 20th win of the season for the Cubs in Wednesday night’s matchup. The Pirates will counter with AJ Burnett, who is making his second start since a stint on the disabled list. The Cubs are a heavy road favorite in this one.

Nothing really changed in the NL Central Division on Wednesday. The St. Louis Cardinals took their series opener in extra innings over the Milwaukee Brewers as the offense struggled mightily yet again. But, a win is a win, and the Cardinals picked up a half-game on both Pittsburgh and Chicago. The Pirates are three back in the division and four up in the NL Wild Card. The Cubs turned their season win total bet into a winner with the win in the nightcap and are now 83-61, seven off the pace in the division. The Cubs have a 7.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants for the second wild card.

When Jake Arrieta was toiling in obscurity in Baltimore, nobody really thought that this was possible. The development of a cutter, a pitch that the Orioles organization does not allow its pitchers to throw, changed everything for Arrieta and now he’s one of the National League’s top starters. In 63 starts and six relief appearances with Baltimore, Arrieta posted a 20-25 record with a 5.46 ERA and a 277/159 K/BB ratio. He just made his 63rd start for the Cubs and is now 33-13 with a 2.41 ERA and a 408/111 K/BB ratio. That’s more than a strikeout per inning while pitching in the Senior Circuit.

Arrieta was ninth in the Cy Young voting last season and is sure to improve on that this season. Arrieta has a 1.99 ERA with a 2.52 FIP and a 2.74 xFIP. The ERA suggests a little bit of overachieving with a strand rate of 79.4 percent and peripherals that are higher, but improved athleticism on defense for the Cubs has also had something to do with his 20-point drop in BABIP. Arrieta has also become a ground ball machine with a 54.3 rate of worm-burners. Pitchers that can sustain over a strikeout per inning and a high ground ball rate are going to consistently perform well and Arrieta has those two things working for him right now. The Pirates, a solid, but unspectacular offense, rank 17th in wOBA against righties, but are just a tick below league average with a 99 wRC+.

AJ Burnett was limited to 64 pitches in his first start back off of the disabled list. The Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, is still playing, but Burnett did not make any rehab starts. He just threw some side sessions and bullpens and returned to the MLB rotation right away. He’s had a fine season at age 38 with an 8-5 record over 22 starts and a 3.14/3.23/3.56 pitcher slash. Burnett has enjoyed the spoils of the Pirates defense after spending last season in Philadelphia with a terrible defense. Also, pitching coach Ray Searage has helped him harness his control, which abandoned him last year with a 10.3 percent walk rate. It’s down to 6.4 percent this season.

Burnett’s last start, on September 10, was his first start since July 30. Prior to the DL stint, Burnett had allowed 19 runs in 16 innings over three starts against Kansas City, Washington, and Cincinnati. His stuff wasn’t particularly sharp in that outing against the Brewers, with three runs on three hits, including a dinger, over five innings. The Pirates are going to bring him along slowly, so expect another pitch count, probably in the 75-85 range.

MLB Prediction: Chicago Cubs

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Jake Arrieta, who has been elite this season. AJ Burnett threw the ball well up until the All-Star Break, so the upside is in there somewhere, but the long layoff certainly set him back. This should be another close game as these two teams are very evenly matched. The line movement on the Cubs should be respected for Wednesday night’s matchup.