Free MLB Picks: Back Cubs & 'Over' In Makeup Game vs. Braves

Thursday, July 7, 2016 11:20 AM GMT

If you are looking at your MLB schedule from the start of the season, you won't find Thursday's Atlanta at Chicago Cubs matchup on it. That's because is a makeup game of a rainout.

What You Need To Know
This will be the last meeting of 2016 between the Cubs and Braves. The teams split two meetings at Wrigley Field from April 29-May 1 with that one rainout. The Cubs won the opener 6-1 behind a strong start from Jon Lester and a Matt Szczur grand slam. The Braves won the finale 4-3 in 10 innings. Daniel Castro singled and scored on Nick Markakis' sacrifice fly in the 10th. Jason Grilli got the save after pitching a scoreless bottom of the 10th. Grilli has since been traded to Toronto. Atlanta also still had Manager Fredi Gonzalez then but he has since been fired.

From June 10-12, the Cubs made their final visit to Atlanta's Turner Field as the Braves will move to a new stadium in the northern suburbs next season. Chicago lost the first game but won the final two by a combined score of 21-4.

I can guarantee you the Cubs would rather not be playing on Thursday and have the scheduled day off. They look rather tired of late as Chicago hasn't had a day off since June 16. That likely helps explain why the club has been scuffling for a few weeks and is now neck-and-neck with the San Francisco Giants for the best record in the National League. The Cubs are still +340 World Series favorites on BetOnline MLB odds. It wouldn't surprise me if Cubs manager Joe Maddon rests a regular or two for Thursday's game with a bigger series at Pittsburgh this weekend to close the first half.

On Tuesday, the Cubs had seven players named to next Tuesday's All-Star Game, including five starters: first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell, third baseman Kris Bryant and center fielder Dexter Fowler. It marks the first time an NL team has had five starters since the 1985 Padres.  Yes, the entire Chicago infield was voted to start by the fans. It's only the second time that has happened in the NL, last by the 1963 Cardinals. It's not clear if Fowler will play in San Diego as he has been out since June 18 with a hamstring injury and is on the DL. The Cubs also have starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester on the NL team. Arrieta could start the game.

Atlanta has the worst record in baseball and thus got just the one required All-Star: starting pitcher Julio Teheran. He is deserving despite a 3-7 record as Teheran has a 2.72 ERA. Many think the Braves will trade him later this month -- perhaps to the Cubs.

Probable Pitchers
The Braves are scheduled to start Lucas Harrell (1-0, 1.50) in this one. The Atlanta pitching staff has been dealing with injuries so Harrell was called up from Triple-A to make his first start in the majors since 2014 on Saturday against Miami. And Harrell pitched well, allowing one run and three hits over six innings with five strikeouts in the win. Harrell outdueled Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star himself, for his major-league win since Aug. 14, 2013, while pitching for the Astros. Harrell's last big-league start had been April 15, 2014, with Houston. Since then, he had bounced around the minors and even pitched in Korea.

Only a few Cubs have faced Harrell in their careers. Jason Heyward is 1-for-3 with a double and strikeout. Rizzo is 2-for-7 with a double and two strikeouts. Zobrist is 0-for-1.

Chicago goes with Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.45). The Cubs have dropped his past five, and Hammel was bombed for a season-high 10 runs and nine hits in just 4.1 innings last Friday at the Mets. Hammel also allowed a career-worst five homers; the Mets hadn't hit five in a home game in 16 years.  But the Cubs are 5-1 on MLB picks in Hammel's past six at home.

Hammel lost to the Braves on June 10 in Atlanta, allowing three runs and eight hits (two homers) over 5.2 innings. Freddie Freeman is 5-for-11 career off Hammel with two homers and five RBIs. A.J. Pierzynski is 3-for-10 with a homer. Markakis is 9-for-22 with a homer and five RBIs.

 

Betting Tips
Cubs and 'over' -- like most Cubs games, the total won't be set until a few hours before the first pitch to determine wind direction. If it's normal, this is likely to be at least 8.5. I'd go 'over' regardless. Atlanta is 2-9 in the past 11 meetings overall. The 'over' is 5-1-1 in the past seven. The 'over' is 12-5 in Hammel's past 17 at home. 

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MLB Picks: Cubs -255 & Over 10
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline