MLB Pick: Low Scoring on Tap for Mariners-Cubs Opener

Jay Pryce

Friday, July 29, 2016 1:36 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 29, 2016 1:36 PM UTC

Jon Lester takes the pill for this afternoon's contest against Hisashi Iwakuma and the visiting Mariners at Wrigley Field. Need an MLB pick for the opening game of Fridays' slate?

Seattle Mariners vs Chicago Cubs

Seattle Mariners (51-49) – Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 3.96 ERA)
The Mariners are not going away in the AL West. One month ago, they were 11.5 games behind the then-surging Rangers with a 39-39 record. Today, just two games above .500 (51-49), they sit 6.5 out with a 10-game home stand on the horizon. Before that, they have to face off with MLB’s best, the Cubs, in a three-game series at Wrigley Field, the first of which takes place this afternoon.

Skipper Scott Servais turns to Hisashi Iwakuma for the opener. The Mariners own a 65 percent winning percentage (13-7) behind the Japanese national this season, their best record of any in the rotation with five starts or more—even “King” Felix (7-5). Iwakuma, in fact, has picked up the victory in seven of last eight outings, putting in six innings of work or more in all but one.

In one career appearance versus the Cubs, Iwakuma earned a no-decision, yielding four earned runs on six hits in eight innings. Only a handful on the current Cubs roster has registered an at-bat against, including Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward. They have done well, going 11-for-32 with three doubles.

Lifetime, Seattle is 19-14 as an away dog behind Iwakuma, returning slightly more than 30 percent profit at +130 average MLB odds. If not winning, he gives his team a chance in nearly every outing. Against the point spread, Seattle is 27-6 all-time in this spot. Iwakuma will have his work cut out this afternoon, as the Cubs lead the majors with 27 covers against the run line as home chalk this season.

In the last two calendar months, the Mariners are just 6-15 SU on the road when squaring off against a team with a .500 record or better—though five victories have come in the last eight games. They find it difficult to generate runs against better-than-average pitchers in this span, crossing the plate 1.9 times per game in 10 outings against a starter with a 4.00 ERA or less.


Chicago Cubs (61-40) – Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA)
After limping into the All-Star break, the Cubs (-168 at Heritage) are looking more like the record-breaking team it was to start the year—in large part to its superior pitching. Since returning, manager Joe Maddon’s men are 8-5, the staff allowing a paltry 2.5 runs per game. Jon Lester, earning the victory in just one of his last six starts, is on the bump this afternoon.

Despite Lester’s inability to earn a decision recently, like Iwakuma and Seattle, the Cubs have played their best baseball behind the southpaw. Going 14-6 overall, their 70 percent winning percentage in games started by the former Red Sox ace is tops of any in the rotation. This is even more impressive despite a recent dip in performance.  In his last eight games, Lester’s ERA has jumped from a 1.89 to a season-high 3.09 entering today’s matchup.

Offensively, the Cubs are coming back down to earth. Two months ago, they averaged 5.66 runs per game, second behind the Red Sox (5.92). Today, their 5.04 average is fourth best in the bigs. The betting market has been slow to adjust, particularly when the Cubs are expected to take care of business at Wrigley. The UNDER is 20-5-1 when Chicago tosses the first pitch as home chalk in this stretch, tallying a total game score of 7.1 runs against an average 8.3 over-under.


Final Analysis
The Cubs have been pretty much lights-out behind Lester in his career as heavy chalk. They are 21-6 all-time at -150 or higher, and 14-3 at home returning nearly 20 percent profit at -210 average odds. They opened as -170 favorites for today's contest. He’ll likely make it interesting early with his form so-so right now, and Seattle could jump ahead early, but expect the Cubs to claim victory in the end. The price is a little too steep here to back Chicago, though. With a stiff 10 mph breeze blowing in from right field, there is a little value in the under at a reasonable price, as both teams average less than 4.3 runs over the last 30 days. UNDER is the free MLB pick.


Free MLB Pick: Under
SBR YTD Record: 87-59-4 (avg. odds -105); MLB YTD: 25-15-2 (avg. odds +102)

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