What a difference a day makes. I wrote a column yesterday on this game; same starting pitchers, same 2-1 Cubs series lead, same everything.
But yet EVERYTHING feels different today. Dusty Baker SAYS Tanner Roark is still his guy, but you have to believe the rope will be exceptionally short tonight with Stephen Strasburg waiting in the wings. Don’t be the least bit surprised to see Stras as early as the second or third inning if merited. And his mere availability changes the entire outlook on tonight’s do-or-die potential elimination game.
The line has failed adjust accordingly. Yesterday you had to swallow -150 if you wanted to back Jake Arrieta and the Cubs. Today? That line has expanded to a more robust -170. That changes the value proposition for me dramatically.
Sure, the Cubs are resilient, playoff-tested, “clutch” and all the other heroic adjectives. But -170 when they could very reasonably be getting six innings of Stephen Strasburg with Jake Arrieta feeling his way back from a minor injury? The value has swung greatly.
Today’s MLB Pick:
Washington Nationals +160 at Chicago Cubs -170 (Total: 7.5)
Tanner Roarke vs. Jake Arrieta
The pitching matchup is the same as yesterday on paper, but again, the mere looming presence of Strasburg and the “all hands on deck” mentality that the Nats will employ with their backs to the wall gives them a slight edge. The +160 line makes it hard to pass up. The Cubs at home are a worthy favorite, but the line feel so exaggerated to me, that I’m going to take a shot going counter and grabbing some value. I’ll leave it up to you whether to agree or disagree – the case I made yesterday for Arrieta over Roark is still valid. Especially if you take Dusty Baker at his word that tonight’s game is Roark.
I personally, do not. I think this game is Strasburg’s early, and we already saw his flame-throwing domination and how it impacted the Chicago bats.
The pressure is on the Nats, obviously, but there is some pressure on Chicago as well. The Cubs would much prefer to wrap things up at home than to chance fates once again in a deep series having to win dramatically on the road. I like a tense game, but I think Strasburg is the X-factor to keep the Nats close enough to steal one on the road and even up the series.
Today’s MLB Pick: WASHINGTON NATIONALS TO WIN +160
11:25 AM **** According to stories this morning, the Nats and Dusty insist Strasburg isn’t pitching. I still remain slightly skeptical, but for the sake of accurate info – adding this note after publishing. According to Nats, no Stras today…