Sometimes you just have a feeling about a starting pitcher. You just know that they are going to go out and dominate. That was the case for me yesterday, with Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks had been pitching his brains out in September and helped carry his team to what is very likely going to be a National League Central Division title.
Yesterday, he was matched up with a Minnesota Twins team that has had a power outage in the last week, and I felt strongly that Hendricks was going to put on a show. So, I backed him and his Cubs, as a small home favorites, in a spot where the Cubs have been great at home as favorites all seasons long, and the Twins had been awful on the road as dogs.
Hendricks leads #Cubs to 6th shutout, 5th straight win.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 19, 2020
And what a show he was able to put on! Hendricks worked eight spectacular innings, allowing no runs on only three hits while striking out ten. He needed every bit of that performance though, as the Cubs couldn’t do much of anything, off of Twins starter Rich Hill either. But, at the end of the day, the Cubs were able to hang on to the 1-0 lead and cash our ticket.
Hendricks is now 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in four September starts, and Chicago has won all four games. When they lock up the division title later this week, Hendricks’s late-season heroics will be a big reason as to why they were able to do it. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in the Windy City, as the Cubs and Twins play game two.
Minnesota Twins (31-22) at Chicago Cubs (31-20)
The Chicago Cubs can all but lock up the National League Central Division title tonight, in game two of a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins. The Cubs lead the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds both by five and a half games with just nine games left to play in the regular season. The Reds are putting up a fight, as they have won eight out of their last ten games, but Chicago has won eight out of their last ten as well, including five straight.
For Minnesota, the Twins are tumbling down the standings as they have lost four out of their last five games. After being in first place as recently as last week, the Twins are now three full games back of the Chicago White Sox for first place in the American League Central Division. Minnesota would need to run the table in their last seven games to have any shot to catch Chicago, and even then, it is highly unlikely that they have enough games left on the schedule to complete the comeback.
Starting for the Twins tonight is Michael Pineda (1-0 3.57 ERA), and for the Cubs, it is Alec Mills (5-3 3.93 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight runs. The Twins are -135 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 PM PST from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Minnesota Twins picked an awful time to fall apart. Minnesota started out the month of September by winning ten of their first twelve games and were hanging right with the White Sox and Indians at the top of their division. But after losing three out of four games in a must-win series with the Twins, and then getting shut out last night in game one of this series, the Twins are now in the wild card fight, as a division title is likely out of reach.
The bats have gone cold for Minnesota, as they have averaged just over two runs a game during this recent five-game skid. The Twins were hoping that getting former AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, back on the field, after he missed the entire month of August, would give their lineup the boost they needed. That just hasn’t been the case though, as Donaldson is hitting just .234 this month, and in his last five games is just three for his last sixteen.
Michael Pineda (1-0 3.57 ERA)
Josh Donaldson wasn’t the only guy that recently rejoined the team, as Michael Pineda made his first start of the season on September 1st, after missing the first two months of the year serving a PED suspension. Pineda has been solid in his three starts this year, as he has worked 17.2 innings and has allowed just seven earned runs and has 20 Ks. He did struggle a bit in his last outing, though, as he lasted just 4.2 innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk against the Cleveland Indians.
Unlike the Twins, who fell apart when they had a shot at locking up their division title, the Cubs stepped up and went on a run and can now rest up and reset their rotation in the season’s final week of play. A win tonight would give the Cubs the flexibility to rest several key players next week, and this might be the last time we see all of the Cubs on the field together before the postseason.
Chicago is getting the job done on the mound, and it has led to a lot of success recently. In their last ten games, the Cubs have three shutout victories, two games where they held teams to just one run, and a total of seven games where opposing teams scored three runs or fewer. The bats haven’t been overly consistent, but it hasn’t mattered as the pitching staff is carrying Chicago right now.
Alec Mills (5-3 3.93 ERA)
Alec Mills has been pitching out of this world in his last two starts. In his last start, he wrote himself into the history books as he threw a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In his previous start before the no-no, he worked six shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds. In those two starts, he has allowed just four total hits in fifteen innings of work without giving up a single run.
And while these two starts stick out as much better than he had been pitching for most of the season, they weren’t totally unprecedented, as he pitched seven shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals in August as well. If Alec Mills brings his best stuff to the ballpark, you aren’t scoring many runs and right now, he is pitching at the height of his abilities.
Who Do I Like?
Michael Pineda is a stud. I expect that he will be at least solid tonight against the Chicago Cubs. Pineda never seems to pitch very many games each season, for one reason or another, but when he is on the mound, he has nasty stuff, with an electric fastball, and strikes out a bunch of hitters. I don’t see the Cubs scoring more than a couple of runs against him tonight.
But a couple of runs is all the Cubs are going to need to win because I see Alec Mills riding this recent hot streak to another stellar outing tonight. Mills is just too good right now to not like him as a home underdog, against a Twins team that has not hit well in the last week. We talked in yesterday’s pick about how the Cubs are one of the best home teams in the game, and the Twins rarely win on the road, and after seeing that trend hold up last night, I expect more of the same tonight.
I am going to follow the strong home and away splits for both teams and ride the hot hand Cubs in his one. Alec Mills has a lot of swagger right now, and until he gives up a run in a start, I am going to continue to back him. Pineda will be good as well, and I see this game being tightly contested and coming down to the wire.
All things being equal, I am going to always lean on the home team in a game. This feels like a 3-1 Cubs victory if you ask me. So, I will go for back to back winners on the Cubs and take Chicago as home dogs in game two, getting +120!