The Chicago Cubs are on cruise control, seeking to stretch their winning streak to four against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in a battle of NL Central adversaries.
Due to an improved core bolstered by offseason reinforcements, Cincy was a trendy pick to make a playoff push, particularly once the 2020 campaign got shortened to such a degree. Alas, the Cubs have handled the Reds, well, handily in two prior games.
In the following betting preview from abe Insights, you'll find the most important data needed to help you maximize your chances of placing winning wagers on this divisional showdown.
Date: Wednesday, July 29
Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
TV: WGN; FOX Sports Ohio
Implied Probabilities: Cubs 50%; Reds 52%
Spread: CHC +1.5 (-190); CIN -1.5 (+185)
Moneyline: CHC +100; CIN -108
Two current aces will take the hill. Cincinnati's Sonny Gray and Kyle Hendricks, both of whom had excellent Opening Day starts. Hendricks pitched a three-hit shutout with 11 K's, and Gray let up one run with nine punch outs over six innings in a 7-1 win over Detroit.
One situation to monitor: new Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas has been out the past two games after "not feeling well" and center fielder Nick Senzel also wasn't in action. Thankfully, Cincinnati outfielder Nick Castellanos said both tested negative for COVID-19.
10.52 vs. 7.63: This first stat clash shows the contrast between strikeouts per nine innings for Wednesday's starting pitchers from last year. Gray holds the considerable edge here, as his superior velocity and big breaking balls help him fan more hitters.
3.49 vs. 1.63: Now, with that superior strikeout ability comes a bit of greater risk. Whereas Hendricks had the fifth-fewest walks per nine innings among starters who logged at least 170 innings in 2019, Gray walked at the seventh-highest rate per full game.
24.9 vs. 11.1: The WAR batting numbers from this past season heavily favor the Cubs, as they were ninth in MLB, while Cincinnati was 21st. If Gray gets too erratic early on, it may result in another deficit the Reds can't climb out of.
Everyone enjoys a good pitching duel, right? Just two lone wolfs, staring down batsmen in a showdown where, if spectators are lucky, they're both on with their best stuff. Well, the spectators are limited to TV and streaming viewers during these strange times.
The point still stands, and the gifted pitching duo features differing styles to make the matchup even more entertaining. Hendricks relies more on his sinker and off-speed pitches, whereas Gray has more zip on his fastball and boast an effective curve and slider.
As mentioned with Gray's tendency to yield bases on balls, though, he especially can't afford to do that in the context of what's transpired in this NL Central series. The Reds fell behind 2-0 on Tuesday, and 7-0 the game before. They staged a spirited rally that fell short when Joey Votto lined out with the bases juiced to seal the 8-7 loss.
Chicago was cautious with Kris Bryant in resting him due to elbow soreness the last time out. He should be back in the lineup to join Anthony Rizzo, — who's homered thrice already in 2020 — Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber, among others. Baez launched two home runs to key the Cubs' most recent victory.
It seems like the new leadership of manager David Ross is serving Chicago well. There's little reason to expect a dip in the Cubs' performance, so Gray would do well to throw a gem as a means of course-correcting this 1-4 Cincinnati club.
It's been tempting to consult last year's data to figure out where the bets are likely to trend on the spread and moneyline. However, given the Reds' roster turnover and how much Chicago underachieved with a different manager, it's harder to take those numbers into account.
Going off of what's happened very recently, Cincinnati can't seem to shake off its sluggish starts. Wagers before the first pitch should favor the Cubs' moneyline. However, the Reds could make for a compelling live bet and have an excellent -1.5 spread payout.
For the run total, bettors are likely to err on the side of the Under 9.5 given the excellent pitching duel.
Note: Odds current as of 12:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 29.
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