MLB Picks: Cardinals Race For Wild Card Spot vs. Cubs - Fade The Chalk In Series Opener

Cardinals beat Arrieta, Cubs 7-2

Willie Bee

Friday, September 23, 2016 1:54 PM GMT

Friday, Sep. 23, 2016 1:54 PM GMT

With Jake Arrieta on the mound in a Friday matinee, the Cubs open their final home series of the regular season as heavy favorites on the MLB odds vs. the St. Louis Cardinals.

It could be an interesting weekend in Chicago where the Cubs host the rival St. Louis Cardinals. On one hand, Chicago has already clinched the NL Central, so manager Joe Maddon has a chance to ease back on the throttle and rest some regulars. On the other hand, these are the freakin' Cardinals and the Cubs never ease up on them.

St. Louis, meanwhile, is embroiled in a very tight race for a wild card spot, and every game counts as if it's win or go home. The Cardinals would love to go home for the final week of play with a sweep of the Cubbies, and they'll get their first chance to make that happen Friday afternoon (2:20 PM ET). The initial mound matchup pits Mike Leake or St. Louis against Jake Arrieta of Chicago, and the Cubs are pronounced -210 chalk at 5Dimes where you can get a 50% Free Play Bonus. As usual with games at Wrigley Field, a total won't be out until later this morning.

By the time they get through with this weekend series, the Redbirds and Cubbies will have met 2,382 times in the regular season. Until last October when Chicago took three out of four in the NLDS from St. Louis, the old foes had never met in the postseason. The Cardinals have won the last five season series, and everything is knotted this year at eight wins apiece.

Mike Matheny's men have won five of the seven played at Wrigley this year, sweeping a 3-game set in June and splitting a 4-game in August. The 'under' cashed against the MLB odds the first two games in Chicago, but the 'over' has been the best wager in four of five since.

 

Cubs 3 Shy Of Magical 100-Win Plateau
Idle Thursday, the Cardinals lost half a step in the NL wild card race to both the Mets and Giants who each pulled off 1-run victories. The three enter the weekend mere percentage points apart in the hunt for two playoff slots.

Leake is taking on the Cubs for the fourth time in 2016, facing off against John Lackey (twice) and Kyle Hendricks in the other three. The former Arizona State star lost two and no-decision in the only St. Louis win among the three, each time allowing three earned and going 6+ frames. In a lineup filled with great sticks, it's little Chris Coghlan who has eaten Leake alive, batting .579 (11-19) with a pair of homers and four doubles.

Chicago's lead in the NL Central has ballooned to 17 games over St. Louis after sweeping three from the Reds in the middle set of this homestand. Two more wins will lock up the top record in the NL.

Arrieta certainly hasn't been as dominant as his Cy Young season a year ago, but he has still fashioned a fine season with a 2.96 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The Cubs are 19-9 in his starts, which still isn't good enough to cover all the chalk baseball bettors have been forced to lay (-2.3 units). The former Horned Frog is 2-1 in three goes against the Cards this season, his 3.45 ERA covering 15.2 IP.

 

Wind Blowing In
Cloudy with a first pitch temp of 73º is the forecast for Chicago's north side today, the 20% chance of rain leaving things on the muggy side. A 10-12 mph breeze from the NNE (in from center) is also in the mix, leaving me to expect an 8-8½ run total.

There shouldn't be any restrictions on Arrieta today, as far as his pitch counts, so expect 95-100 out of the righthander. He's clearly the better pitcher in comparison to Leake, even given Arrieta scuffling a bit lately. Still, my free baseball pick will be on the St. Louis visitors.

 

Free MLB Pick: Cardinals +183
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes
Season: 43-39 (+6.70)

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