We got yet another bad beat last night, as we trusted Luis Severino to handle the White Sox on the road (and he did), but it was New York’s bats that left us hanging in a 4-3 road loss to Chicago. We’ll hope to turn things around on Wednesday night, where we get a loaded MLB slate.
Our attention turns to the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, who prepare for game three of their intense four-game series. Both sides have snagged a win to get the ball rolling, with Max Scherzer out-dueling Jake Arrieta in a Nats win on Tuesday night, 6-1. The Cubs won a livelier affair in game one (5-4) and it will be interesting to see what fans get in the third installment of this series.
Neither team has been lights out to this point, as Washington is just 5-5 over their last 10 games. The Nats are still firmly set in first place in the NL East at 46-31, however, and seem to be in a solid enough spot tonight thanks to a reliable 21-16 home record. Chicago has been just slightly better, going 6-4 over their last 10 games as they try to stay above .500 and also keep pace with the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the top of the NL Central. The Cubs enter with a pedestrian 39-38 record and will hope to add to a shaky 17-22 road record.
This is a very high profile MLB showdown that should get a lot of betting action, but it’s fair to wonder what angle to take. Let’s break this matchup down further to find out:
Chicago Cubs (+144) @ Washington Nationals (-168) Total: 8.5
John Lackey (5-8, 4.74 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (8-2, 3.57 ERA)
The obvious logic points out three things rather quickly; this Total feels a little low, the Cubs provide appealing value and betting against Stephen Strasburg might not be ideal. The decision-making is first aided by Lackey.
The 38-year old righty has given up just two runs in his last two starts, but he has not been known for shutting teams down this season. Instead, he gives up a good amount of contact and does his best to survive games. Lackey has actually had some issues in 2017, giving up 4+ runs four different times and 3+ runs six times over just his last 10 starts. In addition to giving up runs, Lackey isn’t making batters miss at a high level. The aging veteran briefly flashed his upside with 10 Ks back on May 9th, but since then he’s registered more than 6 strikeouts zero times.
It’s true that Lackey could be dialed in and his recent success could continue at Nationals Park, but I’m not buying it. Even when Lackey was containing the Pirates and Marlins he was still giving up a lot of fly balls (17) and he certainly benefited from erratic offenses in conservative parks. The park factor could aid Lackey again here, but for the fourth straight start he’s out on the road, where he owns a paltry 4.40 ERA in 2017. Add that all up with Washington’s success (3rd in HR, 2nd in BA) against right-handed pitching, and trusting Lackey’s recent form feels like a grave mistake.
Lackey is going to give up some runs tonight and it probably won’t help the Cubs get a tough road win. That puts the Nats firmly in play as a pretty safe straight up pick. We should look at this Total, as well, especially if we believe Strasburg could contribute to it. Lackey should be good for 4-5 runs here and it’s not crazy Strasburg could cough up 3-4 of his own. This is obviously one of the more talented pitchers in the league and Strasburg could destroy the Cubs if he’s on top of his game, but he really hasn’t been lately.
Strasburg is giving up a fair amount of contact, having allowed 6+ hits in each of his last three starts, as well as 8+ fly balls in each of those games. It should surprise no one that the 28-year old righty also coughed up 13 total runs during that span. Strasburg has elite swing-and-miss stuff and he’s at home, but he’s actually struggled here (4.70 ERA with 7 home runs allowed) and the Cubs have the ability to smoke right-handed pitching, especially in the power department.
Ultimately, I don’t trust Lackey and I don’t necessarily believe in the Cubs on the road in this matchup. I do think Lackey will regress from his recent form, though, and Strasburg could bend enough to help promote the Over in this matchup.