The St. Louis Cardinals swept yesterday's doubleheader to pull within 2.5 games of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central ahead of their upcoming showdown on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
It's been an absolute whirlwind of a 2020 season for St. Louis, who've overcome a COVID-19 outbreak and are in the midst of playing numerous doubleheaders in a frantic race to get in as many games as possible. Can the Cards build off the sweep, or will the Cubbies rebound at Wrigley?
In abe Insights' preview to find, we have the best odds across all major sportsbooks, a breakdown of the key lines, advanced stats and more information to help your betting thought process.
Date: Sunday, September 6
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Cardinals 50%; Cubs 51%
Spread: STL -1.5 (+145); CHC +1.5 (-154)
Moneyline: STL -102; CHC -105
It's going to be a fun prime-time pitching matchup when the Cards' Dakota Hudson takes on savvy southpaw Jon Lester. Hudson had an excellent August with a 1.66 ERA in four starts, whereas Lester had three excellent outings but two woeful ones where he gave up 13 runs in a combined 9.2 innings.
Unfortunately, a kidney issue sent St. Louis pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim to the emergency room and ultimately to the injured list. Kim would've started tonight, but instead, Hudson gets the nod.
41.1 vs. 33.0: These initial stats present each offense's hard hit percentage. The Cubs have a massive advantage here, ranking fourth in all of baseball, while St. Louis is 27th out of 30 teams. A lack of power has limited the Cards' upside this season so far.
.238 vs. .199: What's saved St. Louis from an absence of explosiveness from its offense is elite pitching across the board, as the Birds lead MLB in opponents' batting average. Chicago isn't too bad in this department either, ranking 11th.
25.9 vs. 21.5: Cubs batters collectively sport the league's fourth-highest strikeout percentage, whereas St. Louis' K rate is the seventh-lowest. Solid as Hudson has been this year, at least one positive for Chicago's sake is he's not known as a strikeout master.
This isn't the best matchup for Hudson, as he often relies on ground balls and pitching to contact to get his outs rather than overwhelming batters with power or supremely nasty stuff. Per FanGraphs, Hudson has a 58.8% ground ball rate, and that doesn't jell well with what Chicago does best.
The Cubs have tended to be patient to a fault at the plate in 2020, though. They've had the lowest first-pitch swing percentage and second-lowest zone swing rate. It's caused hitters to fall behind in counts and, therefore, strike out far more than a lineup of this caliber should.
Lester has had a roller-coaster season to date, showing the dominance that's characterized much of his career at times, but also getting rocked enough to suggest he doesn't have much left in the tank. The 36-year-old yielded five runs to last-place Pittsburgh in his most recent appearance.
St. Louis hit two homers in Game 2 Saturday night. As mentioned before, the Cards have been lacking in making strong contact this year. It's possible if Lester doesn't have his best stuff, he could be the antidote to that ailment. In Barrels per Batted Ball Event percentage, Lester's 10.9% concession rate is MLB's sixth highest among qualifiers.
Paul Goldschmidt is only on pace for about six homers — and that's if the Birds could play 60 full games, which they won't. He's hit an average of more than 30 homers per season over the past five years, and the club simply doesn't have a lot of other true power hitters. It's going to take more long balls for the Cards to keep pace in the NL playoff race.
What stands out most about the main lines is the run total, which is far higher than the typical MLB standard of around eight to 8.5. Chances are, bettors are going to hammer the Under because of St. Louis' persistent offensive struggles and the fact that Chicago hits only .230 as a team.
The spread and moneyline are so tight. Although the Cards have the pitching edge in what should be a tight contest, look for wagers to favor Chicago's spread and moneyline if for nothing other than the new legal sports betting market in Illinois and the Cubs' popularity.
Note: Odds current as of 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, September 6.
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