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I'm honing in on Cy Young contender Justin Steele in a key Wednesday night matchup for the Cubs as they try to maintain a hold of the final NL wild-card spot.
Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Best Bets
The Cubs remain in a dogfight for the third wild-card spot, holding off the Marlins by a half-game entering Wednesday's action. It makes for just the kind of scenario for an emerging young pitcher putting the finishing touches on a breakout season to step up, and I'm counting on Justin Steele to do just that Wednesday.
The left-hander is actually trying to bounce back from his second-worst outing of the season, as he was just knocked around by the Diamondbacks for six earned runs on seven hits over six innings in his most recent start. However, that's very much an outlier, as Steele has given up three earned runs or less in 25 of his 28 starts.
The southpaw has also been at his best at home, where he's generated a 12-2 record, 2.18 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 0.5 HR/9 across 99 innings. He's faced the Pirates once before this season and looked good doing so, holding Pittsburgh to three runs (two earned) over six innings while striking out six at PNC Park on Aug. 24.
The Pirates continue to make for appealing targets. Pittsburgh has a 25.3 percent strikeout rate to go with a .291 wOBA and -8.8 wRAA versus lefties in the last month, with Steele naturally having played a part in those numbers via his aforementioned start.
Steele's opposite number Mitch Keller has also enjoyed an impressive season and won't be an easy puzzle for Chicago to solve. However, Keller has some drastic home/road splits, and he's posted a 5.15 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 1.3 HR/9 across 92.2 innings away from PNC Park. He did blank the Cubs over a masterful eight-inning performance at home on Aug. 25, but once again Wrigley could prove to be a tougher challenge for him.
With respect to the Happ prop, it's nearing the end of the season and a little bit of fun is certainly in order. Happ has given Keller plenty of trouble over a pretty decent career sample size – he's posted a .421 average with two doubles and two homers in 24 career encounters with the right-hander.
A total of 14 of the 22 homers Keller has given up this season have come off left-handed bats, while the switch-hitting Happ has belted 13 of his 18 homers off righty arms. Happ also hits two of the pitches Keller throws to lefty bats most often well -- he boasts a .355 wOBA against fastballs and a .344 wOBA versus breaking pitches, including the curveball Keller surrenders a .293 average and .413 xwOBA on when throwing it to left-handed hitters.