A light Thursday MLB slate had me taking a mild break from my daily MLB picks, but I’m back today to end the week with a win. The Astros burned us in Philly last time out, which snapped a nice four-game winning streak. We’ve nailed 5 of our last 7, though, and head into Friday with a new winning streak in mind.
The Chicago Cubs finally took back first place in the NL Central this week and after another win and yet another loss by the Milwaukee Brewers, they now have a 1.5 game lead. The race for the top spot in the division isn’t over, but the Cubs have really been dialed in during an 8-2 run and their main competition – the Brewers – have regressed sharply (2-8 during that same span).
Chicago is back where they were always supposed to be and they may very well stick there, but tonight they put that first place label on the line in Milwaukee. That’s right, as soon as the Cubs got the lead back, it could be taken away. The Cubs head back to Miller Park, where a hungry Brew Crew awaits, hoping to get back on track and push Chicago again for that top spot.
Can the Brewers return value as the home underdog, or should we stick with the value we’re getting with the mildly favored Cubs? Let’s take a closer look at this matchup to find out:
Chicago Cubs (-142) @ Milwaukee Brewers (+122) Total: 9
Jose Quintana (6-8, 4.22 ERA) vs. Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA)
This feels like a fairly easy game to call at first glance. The Cubs acquired tonight’s starting pitcher in a trade almost two weeks ago and ever since have looked like the team that won it all last year. The Brewers simultaneously stopped producing at a consistent rate and are dangerously close to slipping further down in an increasingly competitive NL Central division.
If Milwaukee wants to stop this slide, they’ll have to find a way to exploit tonight’s matchup with the visiting Cubs. That is easier said than done, seeing as talented lefty Jose Quintana has looked pretty comfortable in his new digs, allowing just three total runs in his first two starts as a member of the defending champs.
Quintana’s solid start in his new city could get derailed on the road in a hitter’s park, but early indications are we shouldn’t overly fear that. Milwaukee has always been an interesting matchup for opposing pitchers; either you’re going to get pounded or their inefficiency at the plate could hand you a career gem in strikeouts. It’s been much of the latter lately, which puts Quintana in play to have one of his best performances of the year.
Milwaukee’s numbers against left-handed pitching haven’t been amazing. The team tends to bench top masher Eric Thames when facing lefties, while Travis Shaw and the majority of Milwaukee’s lineup don’t boast elite numbers against that side of the plate. The Brew Crew’s power keeps them as a threat (13th in home runs against southpaws), but their 255 Ks (5th worst in MLB) might cancel that out.
There’s plenty of reason to trust in Quintana individually, too. The former White Sox ace has actually been better on the road this year (3.61 ERA, .230 collective batting average) and the only time he’s face this Brewers team in the last three years, he diced them up good (10 strikeouts, 1 earned run).
Brent Suter toes the rubber for the Brewers on the other side and that’s not exactly striking fear into a Cubs offense that is in a solid groove. Chicago also wrecks left-handed pitching (4th in HR, 11th in batting average) and blasted Suter for four runs in just over one inning the only time they faced him this year.
Suter isn’t a bad pitcher, but he thrives on limiting hard contact and controlling a game. If things get away from him, especially against a team that isn’t scared off by lefty hurlers, things could get ugly quickly. This park in general could easily end up impact the 27-year old’s solid home run numbers to date, as well.
Ultimately, this one is fairly obvious. The Brewers and Cubs are heading in very different directions, one team has an ace on the mound and one team hits lefties far better than the other. You could make an argument that Milwaukee has the narrative card here, they’re at home or that this is simply a huge game in a huge series. I agree with all of that, but the value isn’t great enough with the Brewers. Instead, let’s roll with the Cubs straight up or attack their nice +115 Run Line.
Both are worth pursuing, but I like the safety and value in simply backing the Cubs and not getting cute tonight. Suter can survive games enough to potentially keep this game close, while the Brewers do have scary power and are at their home park. This one could be closer than we all think. Still, the Cubs should win and at -142 we’re getting solid value in them tonight.