The Chicago Cubs have lost three in a row but still hold a considerable lead atop the NL Central Division ahead of Monday's doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Chicago's current skid accounts for nearly half the games the Cardinals (4-4) have played all season. A COVID-19 outbreak caused St. Louis to be on a long hiatus until this past weekend, when the Birds took two of three against the White Sox.
Can the Cards keep it going against another Windy City adversary, or will the Cubs return to their winning ways? Continue reading for abe Insights' preview to find the best odds, analysis of the main lines, critical stats to keep an eye on and more to boost your betting.
Date: Monday, August 17
Time: 5:15 p.m. ET / 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: WGN; FOX Sports Midwest
Implied Probabilities: Cardinals 39%; Cubs 65%
Spread: STL +1.5 (-145); CHC -1.5 (+128)
Moneyline: STL +155; CHC -182
Monday's starting pitchers are Kwang-Hyun Kim versus Chicago's Kyle Hendricks for the opener, but it's unclear what the Cubs will do on the mound for their next starter. Tyler Chatwood just went on the injured list with a mid-back strain, stretching Chicago's depth.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals staff is just getting back into the swing of things, so it'd make sense for them to use a platoon of bullpen arms for Game 2. Kim is making his maiden MLB start, whereas Hendricks has been pitching at an ace level for the Cubbies this year.
10.6 vs 6.6: The latter figure shows the Cardinals' percentage of walks drawn, which rates as MLB's lowest, but of course, in far fewer games played than the other teams. Chicago's lineup is patient overall, in a tie for the league's fifth-highest walk rate.
27.9 vs. 22.4: In an almost oxymoronic follow-up to the above stats, the first number here is the Cubs' MLB-worst strikeout percentage, followed by St. Louis' rate, which ranks 11th-best out of the 30 teams.
3.37 vs. 4.80: For the advanced stats of xFIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, the Cards benefit from a small sample size in leading all of baseball with the lowest total among relief pitchers. Although Chicago's pen has improved lately, it's still ninth-worst in this category.
A shorter, seven-inning contest with Hendricks on the bump clearly favors the Cubs in the first game. In the friendly confines of Wrigley Field this year, Hendricks is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts. It doesn't get much better than that, and it's quite an intimidating atmosphere for Kim to debut in.
To be fair to St. Louis' starter, Kim is a 32-year-old MLB rookie who's played professionally for years in South Korea. The southpaw ranks seventh on KBO's all-time wins list with 136, and amassed a 3.27 ERA for a 12-year pro career that began at age 18. It'll be fascinating to see how he fares against one of the most talented batting orders in baseball.
Two of the Cubs' best hitters in Javier Baez (.203) and Kris Bryant (.182) are struggling, hitting just above and below the Mendoza Line respectively. Whenever they get going, Chicago should be all the more dangerous. Bryant has been rumored as a trade chip for months now, and the hope is it's not impacting his performance on the diamond.
Even with back-to-back-to-back defeats, though, new manager David Ross' Bears still sit atop the division standings at 13-6, 3.5 games in front of Milwaukee. There are worse circumstances for a first-time skipper in Ross to feel his first dose of true adversity in charge of a team with championship expectations.
This time crunch for the Cardinals to play as many games as possible, even with shortened, seven-inning legs during doubleheaders, is probably going to take a toll at some point. If they can somehow navigate it all and secure a playoff berth, it'd be one of the biggest storylines of the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
The Over/Under is lower for a seven-inning game, and with Hendricks on the mound, action is bound to skew to the Under. Keep an eye out for Game 2's lines, though, because if the run total is similar, expect bets to go on the Over side.
As for the moneyline and run line, hedging with the Cardinals' spread seems like a wise move if bettors aren't keen on taking a Cubs club that's lost three straight. However, given the plus money on Chicago's run line and decent moneyline payout, the favorites should see more of the action on both of those, in both games of the doubleheader.
Note: Odds current as of 11:35 a.m. ET on Monday, August 17.
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