MLB Regular Season
Matchup: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Date/Time: August 5, 7:05 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Dan Haren (7-7, 3.42) vs. Jeff Locke (6-6, 4.21)
MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook
Moneyline: Pittsburgh -120
Dan Haren has said that he will likely retire at the end of the season, even though he will only turn 35 when the Chicago Cubs are in the midst of their postseason push in September. He will make his Cubs debut on Wednesday night against Jeff Locke. These two NL Central rivals should have some memorable games over the next couple of years, as both teams have exciting young core players that will be around for quite a while. Pittsburgh is favored in this one, but this is a line that you will want to watch closely.
All of the division games this week are interesting because most of these teams won’t meet again until September, which is all by design. The Cubs and Pirates were rained out on Monday night after failing to decide a winner before the enduring the second of two long rain delays. The Cubs entered this series with a 6-4 season series edge over the Pirates, which is about what you would expect from two teams that are pretty evenly matched.
It’s been a tough season for Dan Haren, but he has been a consummate professional throughout. Haren took a one-year, $10M deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to pitch close to home for 2014 with an option year for 2015. The Dodgers decided it was best to move on from Haren and sent him to the Miami Marlins. Haren considered not accepting the trade and simply retiring, but he went to Miami and made 21 pretty good starts for the Fish. He posted a 3.42 ERA with a 4.58 FIP and a 4.58 xFIP, enjoying the friendly confines of Marlins Park.
Things may be a bit different in Chicago. Haren had a 4.16 ERA away from Marlins Park and opposing batters posted a .473 SLG in 253 plate appearances. Fourteen of the 21 home runs Haren has allowed came on the road. While his stats may drop off pitching in a less suppressive environment, Haren does get the thrill of a playoff race in what is expected to be his final season. Declining velocity has taken away some of Haren’s value, as his home run rate has climbed in recent years, but there’s still some pitchability there and Haren seems like the type to embrace a mentor role for guys like Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta, which will likely be worth more than his pitching.
The best way to describe Jeff Locke is that he is “a guy”. He’s an adequate innings eater for a team that plays in a good pitcher’s park and that’s about it. In 81 career starts and two relief appearances, Locke has below average run prevention numbers for the National League. This season, over 20 starts, Locke is 6-6 with a 4.21 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, and a 3.88 xFIP. League average in the NL is 3.92/3.90/3.80, so Locke is basically league average across the board, though both his strikeout and walk rates are below average.
Locke has improved his command this season, which is a big deal when you’re a three-pitch lefty without a lot of swing-and-miss stuff. Illustrating how friendly PNC Park is for pitchers, Locke has a 2.90 ERA at home with a .242/.315/.316 slash against. On the road, however, Locke has a 6.43 ERA with a .301/.380/.446 slash against. He does get this start at home, against a Cubs offense that has really struggled over the last five weeks, but entered play on Tuesday ranked first in BB% against lefties and fifth in on-base percentage.
MLB Prediction: Chicago Cubs
PNC Park is on par with Marlins Park from a home run standpoint, so there’s some hope that Haren can have some success in this outing. He does downgrade defensively, which is a concern, but the Cubs should get some quality swings against Locke. It’s not a particularly strong lean, since both pitchers have some blow-up potential, but it will be very interesting to see how both teams do in this series finale.