Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 26, 2021, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
- The Chicago Cubs are -215 for their Opening Day matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1
- Kyle Hendricks gets the start for the Cubs, while Chad Kuhl will take the mound for the Pirates
- Read below for a preview and betting prediction for the game
The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates meet on Opening Day at 2:20 pm EST. After an uninspiring offseason, which saw Yu Darvish traded to the San Diego Padres, the Cubs head into the 2021 campaign as outsiders to win the National League Central. Pittsburgh is in the depths of a rebuild, however, making Chicago the favorites according to the Pirates vs Cubs odds.
Chicago is favored at -215 on the moneyline. Kyle Hendricks gets the honor of the Opening Day start, and the veteran right-hander will be matching up with Chad Kuhl.
Pirates vs Cubs Odds
|Team||Runline||Moneyline at FanDuel||Total|
Odds taken as of March 31st
Chicago has won six of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. The Pirates won the final three games against the Cubs in 2020, hitting the under in all three games and covering the runline.
Hendricks Enjoys The Pirates
Hendricks has a career ERA of 3.07 against the Pirates. He’s coming off a strong 2020 campaign, having led the Majors with 0.89 walks per nine innings, and posted his best ERA (2.88) and WHIP (0.99) since 2016. In two starts against Pittsburgh last season, the 2011 draftee gave up just three earned runs in 13.2 innings.
Kyle Hendricks can pull some strings. pic.twitter.com/sM6c2wXqnM
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 5, 2020
With no Darvish, Jon Lester or Jose Quintana, the Cubs’ rotation is suddenly very reliant on Hendricks. Chicago needs All-Star level outings from the soft-throwing right-hander if they are to be a serious threat in the Central.
Projections for the season are generally kind to Hendricks. He wasn’t at his best in Spring Training, however, recording a 1.50 WHIP and giving up nine earned in just under 13 innings.
Pirates Career Stats vs Hendricks
Adam Frazier was named the Pirates’ leadoff hitter for Thursday’s season opener. Frazier was red-hot in Spring Training, notching a 1.510 OPS and has a good history against Hendricks.
Uncertainty With Kuhl
It’s been a long journey back to the Majors for Kuhl. He went through Tommy John surgery in September 2018, missed the entirety of 2019, and was very carefully managed in 2020. He threw just 46.1 innings in 11 appearances in the shortened campaign.
Comeback complete. pic.twitter.com/woOcTTV0sz
— Pirates (@Pirates) March 30, 2021
While solid in Spring Training, Kuhl pitched only eight innings. This is a new-look Pirates staff with Chris Archer, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove departing. They are leaning heavily on Kuhl to deliver, and he’s immediately under pressure.
The Pittsburgh Pirates play a real baseball game tomorrow.
— Mitchell Nagy ⚾️ (@mryannagy) March 31, 2021
Kuhl has struggled against Chicago throughout his career. He owns a 5.82 ERA and 1.78 WHIP across 51 innings, and those woes are reflected in the matchup numbers. Several Cubs have enjoyed success against Kuhl in the past. Jason Heyward will be hoping to build on a strong 2020, and he’s got good memories against Kuhl, batting .500 in 20 at-bats.
Cubs Career Stats vs Kuhl
Back The Cubs
This is going to be a long season for the Pirates. Kuhl is just below average for his career with a 96 ERA+, and his numbers against the Cubs hardly inspire confidence. Several Chicago hitters will be excited to face Kuhl again.
Since his debut in 2014, among pitchers with at least 500 innings (Hendricks has double that), Kyle Hendricks’ 3.12 ERA is the 9th best in baseball. You don’t pull that off over SEVEN YEARS if you aren’t a stud.
Also? His postseason ERA? It’s a matching 3.12.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 30, 2021
There’s some history of success on the Pirates against Hendricks, too. Hendricks might still be working through some rust after a disappointing Spring Training, but he’ll be locked in for this one. He dominated Pittsburgh in both games last season and could do so again here.
The Cubs could get after Kuhl early on, making them a good bet to cover.
Best Bet: Chicago Cubs, -1.5
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Sam Cox is a freelance writer and sports junkie, who has spent the past several years immersed in the online gaming industry. He has worked with 888sport, Oddschecker, and Colossus Bets to name a few. Based in the UK, Sam also runs Franchise Sports with his brother.