June 2 Odds: Sliding Cubs to Play Desperate, Beat Cards in Wrigley Matinee

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, June 1, 2017 9:32 PM UTC

Thursday, Jun. 1, 2017 9:32 PM UTC

The Chicago Cubs don’t resemble the 2016 World Series champions this season, especially of late. Perhaps a return to the Friendly Confines on Friday (2:20 p.m. ET) will help things as the Cardinals visit the North Side.

MLB Season Record: 17-13 (one game pending)

St. Louis Cardinals At Chicago Cubs (-139, Total TBA)

The Cubs and Cardinals have played five games this season but all at Busch Stadium, with St. Louis leading 3-2. They meet for the first time at Wrigley Field in 2017 in the only matinee (2:20 p.m. ET) on Friday’s schedule. The MLB Network will be showing it nationally.

It’s the first game back at Wrigley for Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler, who was a huge part of last year’s Cubs championship team, but Chicago never made an effort to re-sign him. Fowler will get his World Series ring before this game. He was the team’s center fielder and leadoff man last year and has been sorely missed in both regards. Cubs leadoff hitters, mostly Fowler, scored 119 runs with a .267 batting average and .381 on-base percentage in 2016.

Chicago’s problems this year run much deeper than the leadoff man, but it’s a gaping hole. The Cubs tried Kyle Schwarber there to start the season, but that was a flop. Schwarber has been a huge disappointment, batting .165 with a .286 on-base percentage and 60 strikeouts in 176 at-bats. Manager Joe Maddon has tried a few other guys atop the lineup, but combined the Cubs No. 1 hitters have scored just 27 runs in 52 games with a .210 average and .315 on-base percentage. If those guys don’t get on, pitchers can be more careful with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Bryant leads all every-day players with an average of just .278. Rizzo is down to .227 and is 4-for-26 over the past seven days. Addison Russell is hitting just .216 and only .167 at home. Rookie Ian Happ got off to a red-hot start but is down to .214.

The Cubs enter off being swept three games last week at the Dodgers, which is understandable, and three at the Padres, which is unacceptable. Chicago totaled nine runs in those six games. The Padres' sweep marked the first time in 44 years the team with the most losses in the majors swept a series of at least three from the defending World Series champion this late in a season. At 25-27, the Cubs are two games below .500 for the first time ever under Maddon and their six-game losing streak is their longest under him. Chicago’s run differential is zero after leading the majors by a mile last year at plus-252.

At most of SBR’s top sportsbooks, the Houston Astros have surpassed the Cubs as the World Series betting favorites. Chicago is still the choice to win the NL Central and is only three games behind first-place Milwaukee.

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Friday’s Probable Pitchers

St. Louis goes with veteran right-hander Lance Lynn (4-3, 2.93). He’s fifth in the National League in ERA and sixth with a WHIP of 1.06. However, the Cards have dropped his past three. Two of those Lynn had a quality outing, but last time out in Colorado he tied a season low of five innings and gave up four runs. Lynn has allowed six homers his past four outings after four in his first six.

Lynn’s season debut was April 6 vs. the Cubs and he took a no-decision, allowing two runs over 5.1 innings. Perhaps Rizzo will get going against him as he’s 11-for-32 career vs. Lynn with four doubles and two homers. Jason Heyward is 4-for-10 with two doubles off Lynn. Bryant is 1-for-8 with five Ks.

Former Cardinal John Lackey (4-5, 5.18) looks somewhat shot at age 38. He has lasted only five innings in three straight starts and allowed 13 runs and 20 hits (five homers) in them. Lackey pitches to contact and his defense isn’t the same this year.

Lackey won in St. Louis in April 6, giving up three earned and striking out seven in six innings. Aledmys Diaz is 5-for-12 career off him with two doubles. Jhonny Peralta is 12-for-37 with a homer. The Cards will not have third baseman Jedd Gyorko on Friday as he was placed on paternity leave.


Reasoning For Pick

The pitching matchup appears to favor the Cardinals, especially when considering Lackey is 1-3 with a 5.27 ERA at home this year. However, I believe the Cubs will play with some desperation here as they return home. They had just finished an impressive 7-2 homestand before that terrible West Coast trip. In addition, St. Louis is 1-4 in Lynn’s past five in Chicago and the Cards have dropped six straight series openers overall. So Chicago is my MLB pick.

Free MLB Pick: Cubs -139Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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