The St. Louis Cardinals will play their first game in more than a week Friday when they host the arch-rival Chicago Cubs in their first meeting of the season. It looks to be a low-scoring game. Let’s get right into this one!
Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Friday, August 7, 2020 – 8:15 p.m. ET – at Busch Stadium in St. Louis
While Dodgers-Giants might have an argument, most MLB experts would agree that the best rivalry in the National League is Cubs-Cardinals – no question it’s Red Sox-Yankees in the American League – as the Central Division rivals meet for the first of 10 times this year Friday, coronavirus-willing.
Chicago and St. Louis have combined to win six of the past seven NL Central titles. The Cubs are running away with the division thus far and are -105 favorites at SBR’s best sportsbooks, but the Cardinals (+500) have barely played because of a coronavirus outbreak on their team. The Cardinals have won the season series 10-9 each of the past two seasons over the Cubs and have gone 6-3 in each at Busch Stadium.
Matt Carpenter torched Cubs pitching last year, batting .315 with three homers and nine RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt hit .276 with three homers and seven knocked in. Paul DeJong was at only .212 but had five dingers. The Cards hit 22 homers in the 19 games. Kris Bryant hit just .224 vs. St. Louis pitching in 2019 with one HR and six RBIs. Anthony Rizzo was at .327 with three homers.
Cubs Probable Pitcher: Jon Lester
Jon Lester is in the final year of his six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, but the 36-year-old is proving he might be worth another short contract as he’s off to a terrific start with a 1-0 record, 0.82 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in his two starts.
Lester is basically letting his defense do the work with just two walks and only five strikeouts. He pitched five no-hit innings in his season debut on July 27 in Cincinnati, but at his age Lester is NOT going to be allowed to pitch a complete game, even if he’s perfect. This past Sunday at Wrigley, Lester allowed a run and four hits vs. Pittsburgh in a no-decision.
The southpaw ranks No. 1 in the majors on batting average allowed on balls put in play at .118. Batters are making soft contact 26.5 percent of the balls put in play. Lester was 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA last season in two starts vs. St. Louis. Goldschmidt hits .471 career off him in 17 at-bats.
The Cubs have been fortunate so far in terms of players with the coronavirus or injury, but they have a major problem in the bullpen with supposed closer Craig Kimbrel, who looks like the worst pitcher in the majors right now. He was pulled out of a save opportunity in a three-run game Tuesday vs. Kansas City after giving up a single and a double in the ninth.
Kimbrel’s ERA this season is a cool 32.40 and his WHIP is 4.80. First-year manager David Ross simply CAN’T use him in the ninth inning right now. Rowan Wick and Jeremy Jeffress are the closing candidates.
Chicago is 6-4 on the MLB odds in Lester’s past 10 vs. the Cardinals.
Cardinals Probable Pitcher: Jack Flaherty
No team in the majors has played fewer games than the Cardinals, who are 2-3 and were last in action July 29 at Minnesota when they lost a third straight game. A coronavirus outbreak hit the franchise soon after, and it was nearly as bad as one that hit the Marlins – St. Louis and Miami have not played each this season.
Three notable Cardinals players who have tested positive are the shortstop DeJong, catcher and future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina and pitcher Carlos Martinez. DeJong is hitting .235 with a homer, Molina .222, and Martinez is 0-1 with a 14.73 ERA. Because Martinez is out, Kwang-Hyun Kim will be moved into the Cardinals' starting rotation from the closer’s spot. Manager Mike Shildt plans to close by committee for now.
This series is scheduled to go off as scheduled barring any last-minute positive tests among the teams. Those three Cardinals and any other who tested positive won’t be playing. Two relievers who tested positive for COVID-19 weeks ago, Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes, will be activated.
It’s young ace right-hander and Cy Young candidate Jack Flaherty on the mound. It will be interesting to see how long Shildt lets him pitch because Flaherty could be both fresh and rusty considering he hasn’t taken the mound in a game since way back on July 24 when he held the Pirates two runs and six hits while striking out six and walking none in a victory. Pittsburgh scored both runs in the seventh on four hits, but all were singles and two never even left the infield.
Last year, Flaherty was 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 40 strikeouts in six starts vs. the Cubs, who hit a scant .151 off him. About the only Cub who has hit Flaherty well career is Rizzo, who is 9-for-18 with three homers and six RBIs. Jason Heyward is batting .063 vs. Flaherty in 16 at-bats, Javier Baez .083 in 12 at-bats and Kris Bryant .111 in 18 at-bats.
Analyzing this MLB pick, it’s a low 7.5-run total, but the Cards are down two lineup regulars, and both teams have their aces on the mound. Plus, St. Louis has every single pitcher available out of the bullpen if need be. Bet Under 7.5 runs at +105 with BetOnline. (Read our BetOnline Review)