Just What Cubs Need?

A weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates could be what the Chicago Cubs need to bounce back from their first loss in almost a week.

The Cubs look for a seventh consecutive win over the Pirates as the teams open a three-game set Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Chicago -134 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago –134 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Chicago (9-6) had its three-game winning streak snapped with a 9-2 home loss to Cincinnati on Thursday and hopes to rebound against Pittsburgh (7-8), which it swept on the road in a three-game April 7-10.

The Cubs, who also swept the Pirates in their final series at Wrigley in 2007, outscored Pittsburgh 23-15 in the recent series, which featured two extra-inning contests.

Despite Alfonso Soriano missing all but a half-inning of the Cincinnati series due to a calf injury, the Cubs also scored 23 runs in three games versus the Reds, but yielded their most runs of the season Thursday after allowing eight total in their previous two contests.

Derrek Lee, who hit .571 with three homers and seven RBIs in his previous five games, went 1-for-5 Thursday. Lee, who is hitting .436 at Wrigley this season, is just 2-for-15 against Pittsburgh in 2008. He is, though, 6-for-18 with three doubles and six RBIs in his career against Pittsburgh's scheduled starter Ian Snell.

In order to have a chance at another sweep of the Pirates, the Cubs will likely need a strong outing from starter Rich Hill on Friday.

Hill (0-0, 5.00 ERA) has struggled in his first two outings of 2008, and most recently allowed three runs and three hits while walking four in three innings of Chicago's 7-3 win at Pittsburgh on April 10.

The left-hander, who has walked as many as he's struck out (seven), was relegated to the bullpen for last weekend's series at Philadelphia, but will look to improve on his 2-1 mark with a 4.08 ERA in six career starts versus the Pirates.

"He's just not throwing the ball," Cubs manager Lou Piniella told the team's official Web site. "He's just got to go out and throw it. He's got a ton of talent."

Snell will try to get his team on track after Pittsburgh lost 8-1 at Los Angeles on Wednesday for its second straight defeat to drop the three-game series with the Dodgers.

Snell (2-0, 3.93) has all but one of the starting rotation's three victories and managed to earn a win after allowing three runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings in a 4-3 home win over Cincinnati on Sunday.

"That wasn't his cleanest outing, but he managed to get big outs,'' Pirates manager John Russell said of the right-hander, who didn't face the Cubs last week and is 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA against Chicago in six career starts.

On Wednesday, center fielder Nate McLouth went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in all 15 games. It's the longest run by a Pirate from the start of the season since Al Oliver's 18-game streak in 1972. McLouth, who's batting .382 with 14 RBIs, was 6-for-18 and drove in three runs versus Chicago in the most recent series.

Pittsburgh committed another error Wednesday, giving them one in 14 straight games, which is one shy of matching the club's longest streak for consecutive contests with an error set June 2-16, 1946.

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