We stayed away on Monday due to a shorter main slate and limited options, but we’re back to find a winner tonight. We got burned in our last stop on Friday, as James Shields put on his ace cap and wouldn’t contribute to our Over play. That didn’t work out, but there could be a similar play that needs to be locked in tonight.
Our focus tonight turns to Great American Ballpark, where we get a fun battle between NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds remain the doormat of the NL Central, but they’ve actually been decent lately, going 5-5 over their last 10 contests. They also sport some pop and return home to a dangerous park. They happen to be at their best here most nights, having gone a respectable 29-31 on the year.
That could make for some difficult work for the visiting Cubs, who have been notorious this year for their road struggles. The Cubs have been a different team since the All-Star break, however, and are currently red hot with a three-game winning streak and a stout 7-3 record over their last 10 games. Their 32-29 road record isn’t too shabby, either.
Let’s take a closer look at this NL Central showdown and see where our MLB betting loyalties should lie tonight:
Chicago Cubs (-170) @ Cincinnati Reds (+145) Total: 10.5
John Lackey (10-9, 4.67 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44 ERA)
If you want free money we can take the Cubs at -170, but we don’t like to travel quite that high with our picks. It’s too obvious of a bet and the Cubs get a park upgrade against a bad pitcher. Everything points to a Cubs win here and we should attack that, but there isn’t enough value with that bet.
I like the safety and value in the Over, as 10.5 feels like a really playable Total. Great American Ballpark doesn’t play around, for one. This is a park built for the long ball and both teams can tear the leather off of this thing. We’ve got the park, we’ve got the power and if you hadn’t noticed, we absolutely have the pitching. It’s a lethal combination that we can’t shy away from on today’s betting slate.
Lackey has actually been pretty controlled for a while now, but this is a bad spot for him. The 38-year old righty still gives up a lot of contact and on the year has allowed 29 home runs. His fly ball tendencies are problematic in any park against this powerful Reds lineup, but on the road (4.85 ERA with 16 HR allowed) in this park, his reliability only weakens.
Again, I still like the Cubs straight up here, because they’re the better team and because Lackey’s form has actually been solid. I do think he can get roughed up enough to help us get where we need to go, though. The fly ball rate is a huge reason why, but the Reds specifically know how to get to him. In three starts already in 2017, Cincy has scored on Lackey 9 times.
That’s not staggering, but 3-4 runs should be plenty from the Reds if Chicago shows up. The Reds could easily do more damage, too. They’re more comfortable at home and this is just a brutal park to manage games in. Toss in Cincy’s solid numbers against right-handed pitching (12th in HR, 13th in batting average), and I think Lackey could be in for some damage control.
It’s way worse on the other side with Homer Bailey, who was once a solid pitcher but hasn’t been a reliable arm in 2017. The strikeout rate has been awful, while Bailey has major command issues and also gives up a good amount of contact.
The crazy thing is people might get scared off of Bailey’s 10-strikeout performance against these very Cubs in his last start. Don’t be fooled, though. Bailey hadn’t had a game with even 6 Ks in his previous 10 starts, so that feels very much like an anomaly. That, and even in that game where he ripped up the Cubs via 10 strikeouts, he still walked 5 batters and allowed 6 runs.
And that was in a safer environment in Wrigley Field. Bailey has been significantly worse at home, where he’s put together an astonishingly bad 14.33 ERA and allowed an absurd .432 collective batting average to visitors.
None of this is ideal when taking on the Cubs, who sport enough power and basic talent to win any matchup, let alone this one. The Cubs are admittedly more fun to target southpaws with, but they still rank 11th in power against righties and against this arm in this park, I really doubt they randomly show up lifeless. The Cubs still have a ton to play for and the Reds probably wouldn’t mind playing spoiler, either. Regardless, any of the damage either side inflicts will be via the bats. The pitching is far from elite, the bats are deadly and this park is busting for a big outing.
I like the Cubs straight up and wouldn’t mind targeting their -1.5 Run Line if we got more value (just-110 at Bovada), but I find safety and upside with the Over at -115. The annoying part is the Total was at 10 when I started writing this and it shifted to 10.5 literally as I was about to wrap this up. That makes it a little tougher, but I still love this bet. We still get some nice value and there’s too much working in it’s favor.