WhatIfSports National League Wild Card prediction: Cubs defeat Pirates

Cubs ace Jake Arrieta will pave the way to a National League Division Series appearance for Chicago.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After 162 games, it all comes down to this.

The Cubs (97-65) and Pirates (98-64) are about as evenly matched as they come, even with Pittsburgh enjoying home-field advantage and an edge in experience.

This the first postseason appearance since 2008 for the Cubs, and after a painful rebuilding period, no one from that playoff team remains on the current roster. 

The Cubs are instead loaded with young talent and potential, something to which the Pirates can certainly relate. Back in 2013, it was the Pirates who took the league by storm and made noise in the postseason after a lengthy time away from the playoffs. Now, the Pirates are looking to advance after losing in last year’s National League Wild Card game. 

Both teams send their aces up to the mound for Wednesday’s Wild Card battle.

Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta will look to stay hot for the Cubs. Arrieta has remarkably allowed just four runs in his last 88 innings. That includes a one-hit shutout against the Pirates on September 27. 

Gerrit Cole will take the home hill for the Pirates. In four starts against the Cubs this season, Cole was 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 25 innings. 

Chicago’s big bats have enjoyed some success against Cole, despite his strong overall numbers. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are a combined 15 for 43 (.348) against Cole lifetime. 

Andrew McCutchen is the lone Pirate to have any real luck against Arrieta. He’s 8-for-23 lifetime against the Cubs ace. 

Neither the Cubs nor Pirates will have a single player in their starting lineups who has ever homered against the opposing pitcher, which means this could be a low-scoring battle.

Which team will advance to the NLDS and win this Wild Card game? We played the Cubs-Pirates matchup 101 times using our MLB simulation engine, which accurately predicted an Astros victory on Tuesday. The Cubs came out on top 66.3 percent of the time, with an average score of 5.0-3.2.

Arrieta excelled in the simulation, earning the win in 56-of-101 games. His 2.59 ERA included a .209 OAV. Cole was less effective, posting a 4.23 ERA.

NL Wild Card: Cubs vs. Pirates
Team Win % Avg. Score
Chicago Cubs 66.3 5.0
@ Pittburgh Pirates 33.7 3.2
Simulate Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Note: our prediction used each team’s 25-man playoff roster, while MLB SimMatchup includes all eligible players from the 2015 season so that theoretical and "what if" scenarios can be simulated.