The National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs (69-50) begin a key divisional series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (61-60) on Thursday in what is listed as a pick'em matchup at sportsbooks.
The Pirates will be trying to break a three-game losing streak to stay in the playoff race at home, where they have a 33-29 record this season.
MLB betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 6.8-4.0, Pirates. MLB picks on every game.
Why the Cubs Can Pay on the MLB Lines
The Cubs avoided seeing the Milwaukee Brewers pull to within one game of the division lead Wednesday, when they beat them 8-4 at Wrigley Field to earn a split of their two-game set. Now they have to guard against a letdown after facing the Brewers and Washington Nationals in their past five games.
This will be a good test for Chicago ace Jon Lester (12-5, 3.89 ERA), who has struggled since the MLB All-Star break. Lester is winless over his previous five starts, with his ERA rising more than a run from 2.58. Fortunately, he is 2-1 versus Pittsburgh in four outings this season and owns a better record on the road at 7-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 starts. That bodes well here.
Why the Pirates Can pay on the MLB lines
The Pirates have won two of their past three meetings with the Cubs, and they are 5-6 in the season series overall through the first 11, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. These teams still play four more times at Wrigley in late September, but now is the time for Pittsburgh to go on a positive run in an effort to snag one of the two NL wild-card spots.
Ivan Nova (7-6, 4.42 ERA) will toe the rubber opposite Lester, and he has gone 3-0 in his past six outings, with the Pirates winning five times during that stretch. Nova is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts against Chicago this year, and he has performed better at home in 2018, with a 2-3 mark and 3.55 ERA in 10 games.
Smart Betting Pick
This is a huge game for Lester and the Cubs, who are attempting to win the NL Central for the third season in a row. Milwaukee and the St. Louis Cardinals are squaring off in a three-game series, starting Friday, and both teams have a chance to catch Chicago down the stretch. The Cubs cannot afford to lose in this spot, so look for them to win.
MLB Betting Trends
Chicago is 4-2 in its past six games on the road.
The total has gone under in six of Chicago's past eight games.
Pittsburgh is 1-4 in its past five games.
All MLB odds and betting trends according to Bleacher Report's official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week's top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.