As we approach the final week of the Major League Baseball regular season, the schedule is jam-packed with action. Today, there are eighteen games on the slate, with scheduled doubleheaders between the Phillies and Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Pirates, the Nationals and Marlins. All 30 MLB teams will play today, and there are several games that will have major playoff implications.
The White Sox and the Reds match up in Cincinnati, with Chicago fighting for the top seed in the AL playoffs, and the Reds looking to hang onto the final NL wild-card spot. The New York Yankees are surging up the standings and play in Boston against the Red Sox. The Giants and A’s battle for the title of the best team in the Bay Area, with both squads looking like playoff teams. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Chicago, where the Cubs host the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota Twins (31-21) at Chicago Cubs (30-20)
The Chicago Cubs have won seven out of their last nine games and have taken full control of the National League Central Division with just a handful of games left on the schedule. The Cubs will look to lock down that division title this weekend, as they host the Minnesota Twins for a three-game series. Chicago has a five and a half-game lead over the second-place Cincinnati Reds.
For Minnesota, the Twins are coming off of a series loss to the Chicago White Sox that saw them lose three out of four games, and they now trail Chicago by three games in the American League Central standings. The Twins are comfortable in the postseason at this point, as their 31 wins are the third-most in the AL, but Minnesota would love to catch the White Sox for the division title in the season’s final week.
Starting tonight for the Cubs is Kyle Hendricks (5-4 3.29 ERA), and for the Twins, it is Rich Hill (2-1 3.81 ERA). The game total over/under is set at seven and a half runs. The Cubs are -120 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 PM PST from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Minnesota Twins had a shot to take over first place in the American League Central this week when they played the Chicago White Sox for four games. But instead of taking the division lead, they put themselves in a position where it would now take a miracle to catch the South Siders. The Twins had won ten of their twelve games in September before the devastating series loss, and you have to wonder how this team is going to react now that the division title is likely out of reach.
The Twins suffered a power outage against Chicago, as they scored three runs or fewer in all three losses. Last night’s loss was a gut punch, as they led late in the game before seeing the bullpen blow the lead. Minnesota suffered a similar fate in game one of the series, as they lost that game late as well.
Rich Hill (2-1 3.81 ERA)
We just talked about the Twin’s recent bullpen struggles, and we are likely to see a lot of the bullpen used again tonight, as Rich Hill just isn’t able to get deep into games at this point of his career. Hill is going to get you five innings max these days, but he is going to be decent when he is in the game. In his last two starts, he has pitched five innings in both outings and gave up two runs each time.
Those are about as standard of a Rich Hill start as you are ever going to see, and I would expect a similar performance from him tonight against the Cubs. Hill is rarely going to go out and win you a game on his own, but he also doesn’t give them away very often either.
Its been a strange season for the Cubs this year. Early in the year, they looked like they might be the best team in the NL when they started the year out 13-3. Then Chicago looked very mediocre for much of the middle of the season, and despite always staying in first place in the NL Central, they left the door wide open for the rest of the division to catch up.
But the Cubs have slammed that door shut here in September, as they were able to string together some wins in the last two weeks, and now have the division all but locked up with a five and a half-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds. Chicago only needs one or two wins the rest of the way out to clinch the division title, and they would love to take care of that business this weekend at home, in what is their final home series of the season.
Kyle Hendricks (5-4 3.29 ERA)
A lot of this recent Cubs success can be attributed to the performance of starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks started his season out on Opening Day by pitching a complete game shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers, but wasn’t having too much success after that stellar outing. But in September, with his Cubs team really needing him to step up, he has been outstanding.
In three September starts, Hendricks is 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA, and the Cubs have won all three games by multiple runs. He pitched into the eighth inning in each of his last two starts and has really stepped his game up for Chicago. The Cubs are hoping they can get one more elite start from Hendricks tonight against a Twins team that has struggled at the plate recently.
Who Do I Like?
I think Kyle Hendricks is going to be really good again tonight at home. He has been great at home all season long, as his ERA at Wrigley Field is 2.27. Opposing batters are hitting just .221 against him in Chicago. The Cubs have been great at home in general as well, as they are 13-7 in home games where they are favorited like they are tonight against Minnesota.
On the flip side, the Twins haven’t been good on the road, as they are just 10-16 in another team’s ballpark, and they only have two wins all season long when they were a road dog. All signs point to the Cubs winning this game tonight.
The betting trends tell me the Cubs are the side to back. The starting pitching matchup tells me that the Cubs are the side to back. And with the Twins coming in off of a brutal series loss, and the Cubs riding high in the last two weeks, the momentum tells me that the Cubs are the side to back.
Despite Rich Hill pitching mostly decent, Minnesota has lost four out of the last five games he has started. I see that trend continuing tonight. Pencil in Kyle Hendricks for seven or more innings of quality work, and you can expect Rich Hill to turn things over to the bullpen before the sixth inning comes around. The Minnesota bullpen has failed them several times in the last week, and I just can’t trust them in this one. Give me the Chicago Cubs as small home favorites tonight in game one against the Twins!