National League playoff contenders collide in San Francisco for three games & we're tracking the Giants and Cubs with expert analysis and free MLB picks.
The general consensus among the talking heads in the media is the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs have the two National League Wild Cards sewn up, and the only way into the playoffs for the San Francisco Giants is by winning the NL West. A 3-game series between the Cubs and Giants this week might have them backtracking on their prognostications.
The clubs get things underway Tuesday night in San Francisco (10:15 PM ET) with a matchup of righthanders, Jake Arrieta and Matt Cain, Chicago one of seven road favorites on the baseball betting card. BetOnline has the Cubs -147 according to live MLB odds, with a 6½ run total (O -125).
This rivalry dates back to 1883 when the clubs were known as the White Stockings and Gothams, and it's San Francisco with the 1,134-1,063 advantage all-time, 29 more games in the books as ties. The series is almost level this century, however, with the Giants owning a slight 27-26 edge. That gap was wider before the Cubs swept four from San Francisco in Chicago earlier this month, the series starting a season-high 9-game win streak for the North Siders. Three of the four went 'over' the totals, but the MLB odds have gone a different direction in San Francisco where eight of the last nine failed to reach the scoreboard tallies.
Cubs' Surge Gives Them 3rd-Best Record In NL
Chicago (72-51, +10.3 units) heads west this week following a homestand that ended Monday afternoon with a 2-1 win over the Indians in a makeup game. It was the 5th-straight win for the Cubs, and 20th in their last 24, as they start this trip that takes them to Los Angeles for the weekend. The real tests on this crucial Left Coast swing will come Thursday and Friday when the Cubs face Madison Bumgarner to close this set against the Giants then head to LA where they open a weekend series against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
Arrieta has made friends with baseball bettors this season, the Cubs winning 17 of his 25 starts for a cool 5.6 units of black ink. Parlaying the 'under' in his assignments has resulted in just about doubling up that profit. Much of the gain has come in the last two months when Arrieta has been among the game's elite hurlers, Chicago 9-1 behind the righthander while he pitched to a tiny 1.41 ERA.
The former TCU star was behind one of the victories the Cubs scored over the Giants at Wrigley earlier this month, pitching shutout ball into the eighth as a -160 favorite. It was his third career start against San Francisco, leaving him 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in the matchups.
Giants In Middle Of Tough Stretch On Schedule
While the Cubs are starting a tough week on the road, San Francisco (66-58, +2.5 units) is in the middle of perhaps the toughest stretch of games on the fixture that any NL team will tackle in 2015. The Giants just finished a 2-5 road trip through St. Louis and Pittsburgh, now face the Cubs and have series against the Cardinals and Dodgers after this.
Cain picked up only his third quality start of the season his last time out, though he wound up with a no-decision in what was an eventual 4-3 Giants setback in St. Louis. Eleven days before that, the Cubs pounded on the righthander who allowed five runs and six hits along with five free passes in only four innings. That effort went against his recent form vs. Chicago, the Alabama owning a 2.38 ERA in his previous five starts against the Cubs though the Giants only managed to win two of the contests. Miguel Montero is only hitting .200 against Cain lifetime (11-55), but has taken him deep twice.
The most important part of tonight's forecast is the 12-15 mph westerly wind, helping balls heading out to center at cavernous AT&T Park a little. It's just too easy not to like Chicago and Arrieta for my free MLB pick.
My pick: Cubs -147 @ BetOnline