The Chicago Cubs are showing no signs of carryover from last year's disappointing season, riding a six-game winning streak into Thursday's matchup with the Kansas City Royals.
This interleague duel has been all Chicago — and a change in venue from Wrigley Field to Kauffman Stadium didn't help the Royals last night, as the Cubs won decisively, 6-1, to improve their record to 10-2 overall.
Can Kansas City pull a massive upset and dig out of a 3-10 hole to be in the playoff conversation? Or will Chicago continue its roll? Below is abe Insights' betting preview, featuring the best odds, analysis of wagers, fun stats and more, so you can feel more confident laying down some dollars on this game.
Date: Thursday, August 6
Time: 7:07 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Cubs 61%; Royals 39%
Spread: CHC -1.5 (-105); KC -1.5 (-104)
Moneyline: CHC -158; KC +155
Thursday's pitching probables are Tyler Chatwood for the Cubs against Kansas City's Brad Keller. This marks the first start of Keller's 2020 campaign, and although he's 16-20 in 69 career appearances, he's been victim to bad run support, evident in his 3.68 ERA.
As for Chatwood, he's been brilliant in his two starts this year, with a ridiculous 19 strikeouts in only 12.2 innings of work and just one run allowed. After serving in the bullpen for much of 2019, Chatwood looks like a starter to stay if he keeps this form up.
10.3 vs. 4.3: The latter figure is most discouraging for Kansas City: that's the club's percentage of drawing walks at the plate, which ranks last in MLB. Chicago is just outside the top 10, which is bad news for the Royals' prospects of avoiding the sweep.
7.64 vs. 3.49: How is it that the Cubs can have such a good record, yet have the league's worst ERA when it comes to relief pitchers? Perhaps that'll come into play here, as the Royals' bullpen can help them stay close; their ERA ranks 10th in baseball.
5.22 vs. 2.56: Well, here's the thing: KC's starters are sixth-highest (aka worst) in MLB when it comes to Fielding Independent Pitching. The Cubbies are behind only the Reds' 1.94 total, indicating that no matter what the defense is doing behind them or the off times opposing hitters do make contact, their staff is getting the job done at an elite level.
It seems like Chatwood's sudden breakout isn't a total fluke. As MLB.com researcher Andrew Simon pointed out, Chicago's rising star has a cut fastball and a sinker in his pitching arsenal that move in opposite directions away from the opposing hitter. This makes it almost impossible to anticipate where Chatwood's pitches will end up.
As long as Chatwood can maintain command of the strike zone, he ought to have no trouble fanning Royals batters. They've shown impatience at the dish, and to be fair, their dire pitching situation has forced the lineup's hand in being more aggressive and trying to keep up with the numerous runs yielded on defense.
What's scary about the Cubs' exceptional beginning to 2020 is that they aren't even hitting particularly well. Their collective batting average is a mere .237, but they've made up for that by swatting 19 home runs, which ranks third in MLB as of this writing.
It stands to reason Javier Baez (.229), Anthony Rizzo (.250) and Kris Bryant (.194) are going to get their grooves more consistently sooner or later. They did combine for six hits in the top three batting spots on Wednesday.
For Kansas City's part, it's a lot of hoping that Keller can keep the Cubs in check early. Otherwise, Chicago has a great chance to boost new manager David Ross' record to 11-2.
On paper, this is an absolute mismatch and has been as much through the first three fixtures of this series. Chicago has almost on its own derailed Kansas City's season, and that's going to be a lot to overcome.
With the Royals in desperation mode and the Cubs' bats still somewhat cold, look for the betting public to side with the Under total, along with Chicago's spread. Anyone looking to hedge should do so with Kansas City's moneyline.
Note: Odds current as of 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 6.
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