We came up a run short on our big underdog play last night as the Reds dropped the rubber match to the Cardinals by a slim 3-2 margin. The loss was Anthony DeSclafani’s first on the season, dropping him to 6-1. I took a big swing last night, betting a heavy dog to make up some ground and narrowly missed out. Tonight’s play is a little more conservative one, but hopefully one that gets us back on track.
Meanwhile, the Cubs seem to have put their struggles WAY in the rear-view mirror. They have now won nine straight games and have opened up a whopping 12 game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Aroldis Chapman hasn’t been needed in many of the nin victories, but now that they have him in tow, it is really hard to find any weaknesses with this young, dynamic, deep and fun ballclub. They will look to keep it going as they start a last-stand four game set against the Cardinals.
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Today’s Free Pick:
St. Louis Cardinals +135 at Chicago Cubs -145 (Total: 9)
Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.29 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93 ERA)
On the surface, this run total feels really high, doesn’t it? Two quality starters. Scratch that, one high quality starter and one fringe Cy Young candidate, get the ball tonight and the run total is nine? This game hasn’t been moved to Coors has it?
But if you dig a little deeper into the numbers, the NINE isn’t that insane. Carlos Martinez has failed to notch a quality start in his last three outings, allowing ten runs over twelve innings in his last two starts. A big problem has been pitch count and control. He has walked four batters in three of his last five starts and threw a whopping 106 pitches in just five innings three starts ago. His overall season stats are still real good, as is his stuff, but going into Wrigley to face a hot Cubs lineup is no easy task.
And even Lester has been vulnerable the last month or so. His 1.89 ERA on June 12th ballooned to 3.09 by the end of July. Add in the Cardinals equally potent offense and he could also be tested tonight. The Cubs are Cards are the top two offenses in the NL in nearly every major category, especially once you filter out the Coors-aided home Rockies stats. Both average more than 4 ½ runs per game, both hit in the high .250’s as a team and both have deep lineups with patient hitters.
However, Lester seems to have turned the corner. He has allowed just two runs in his last two starts, both wins, and has struck out 15 batters against just two walks. His mates are clicking as well. Chicago has gone 19-6 in their last 25 games and the bullpen has a 1.67 ERA.
It all adds up to a BIG edge for the Cubbies tonight. I am not opposed to an UNDER play tonight, as nine provides some cushion. I also like the Cubs on the runline at a nice plus money of +130. But my official play is the conservative slump-buster – the Cubbies to WIN at a fair price given their considerable edge tonight.