Backed by a stellar performance by Cole Hamels, the Cubs cruised past the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 3-1. Hamels went 8 strong innings, allowing no runs and just 3 hits. Pedro Stroop closed out the game and ultimately spoiled the shutout for the Cubs, but it was nevertheless a clinic put on by Hamels. A DeJong solo jack was the only run for the Cards on the afternoon.
If the Cubs can get Hamels, Darvish, and Lester all on the same page, they ultimately become one of the toughest outs in the National League. Hamels’ outing on Friday was his second straight scoreless start. Lester was struggling, but rebounded in his last start, while Darvish has been settling in recently.
The Cubs are clinging on to a 0.5-game lead with the Brewers game pending at the moment. Despite the Brewers having a difficult time against the lowly Marlins at home, they’re right there with the Cubs at the top of the NL Central. That series could come back to haunt the Brewers if they barely lose to the Cubs.
We’ll see how it goes, teams just want to finish strong with the All-Star break looming in about a month. A lot can change in one month on the Major League Baseball schedule. The Cardinals could be in the lead by then and they currently have a record of 31-30. That tells you that the NL Central doesn’t have an obvious favorite right now.
Nobody is really taking the division by the horns and taking a clear lead. St. Louis go into Saturday 3.5 games back of the 1st. Jack Flaherty will be tasked with getting the Cardinals back on track tonight. Jon Lester is expected to counter for the Cubs at Wrigley. Head below for our free Cardinals vs. Cubs pick.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs Pick:
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The Cardinals need to find their offensive stroke to make a serious run in the second-half. Acquiring former Diamondback, Paul Goldschmidt, was a major score for the Cardinals. He was one of the most sought-after available players on the market. The Cardinals landed on Goldy, but a .267 batting average and 12 home runs is below his expectations.
If he can get to around his career average of .296 by the end of the year, that might be the difference in reaching the postseason. As it has been for the Cards, it’s been a pedestrian year with 4.78 runs scored per game. Last year they scored 4.69 runs per game, so thus far, St. Louis haven’t seen much of an uptick in production despite a higher payroll.
Flaherty has been solid for the Cardinals in his third season as a major leaguer. He broke out last season in his first full season in the majors with an ERA of 3.34. Flaherty has been playing well again in 2019. He enters Wrigleyville with a 3.76 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
He is also coming off a win against the Cubs in St. Louis. In St. Louis and Chicago is a difference maker, though. Note that Flaherty owns an ERA of 6.20 and 1.62 WHIP on the road as opposed to a 2.25 ERA and 0.85 WHIP at home.
The Cubs have a .344 OBP against Flaherty in 78 at-bats. If there is any Cub to stay away from, he has to be aware of Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo has mauled Flaherty for a .636 batting average and 2 home runs in 11 at-bats. He had a nice day yesterday with a hit and run scored.
The Cubs’ lineup are likely going to be backed by a solid performance by Lester on Saturday. He had been struggling but responded with just 1-run allowed against the Angels in 7 innings. Lester has been a standout at Wrigley Field with an ERA of 1.76 in 30.2 innings. He’s yielded just 2 long balls during that time. This looks like a nice price to pay on Lester at home on Saturday.