Road teams are 4-0 in the MLB playoffs heading into Friday, paying off at nice underdog prices. Can the Cubs follow suit when they open the NLDS vs. the Cardinals in STL Tonight?
Cubs-Cardinals NLDS Game 1 Odds
As of this writing the best MLB odds we could find on St. Louis with John Lackey was the -105 offered at Bovada, while Chicago with lefty Jon Lester was getting +102 at 5Dimes.
Also, 5Dimes was listing both teams at -110 to win this NLDS.
St. Louis rolled to the best record in the Majors this season, winning 100 games, claiming another NL Central title and the top seed for these National League playoffs.
Chicago, meanwhile, won 97 games, its most since making its most recent playoff appearance seven seasons ago, but that was only good enough for the second National League wild-card spot. The Cubs then went to Pittsburgh Wednesday night and blanked the Pirates 4-0, behind another wicked performance from starter and Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta, to reach this NLDS.
The Cardinals took 11 of 19 games from Chicago during the regular season, with the OVERS going 11-7-1.
Game 1 Pitching Match-Up
This pitching match-up is a rematch of a game played back on July 6, a 6-0 St. Louis victory. That game was tied at 0-0 heading into the top of the seventh, and 2-0 into the ninth, before the Cardinals pulled away with four runs off the Chicago bullpen.
Lackey (13-10, 2.77), by our strict standards, is 24-for-33 on quality starts this season, and seven for his last eight. Last Sunday he gave up three runs in four innings in a meaningless game against Atlanta, but over his seven starts previous to that he held opponents to just nine earned runs through 48 1/3 innings.
On the season St. Louis is 17-16 in Lackey's starts this year, with the UNDERS going 17-15.
In three starts this season against the Cubbies Lackey allowed just three runs and 24 base-runners (hits + walks) through 21 2/3 innings; the Cardinals went 3-0 in those starts, as did the UNDERS.
Lester (11-12, 3.34) is 19-for-32 on quality starts, and four for his last five. Nine days ago he held Cincinnati to one run and three hits through eight innings, and over his last five outings he's limited foes to nine runs through 37 innings.
For the season the Cubs are 17-15 in Lester's starts, with the UNDERS going 19-10.
In five starts this season against St. Louis Lester allowed nine ER and 35 base-runners through 31 1/3 innings; Chicago went 1-4 in those games, in part thanks to some poor run support, while the UNDERS went 3-1-1.
Game 1 Batting Splits
Chicago ranked eighth in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .322 team on-base percentage, and 16th with a .406 team slugging percentage.
St. Louis, meanwhile, struggled against left-handed pitching this season, ranking just 24th with a .307 team OBP and 28th with a .355 team slugging percentage.
Ballpark Totals Factor
The totals skewed UNDER by a lopsided 46-28 margin in games played at Busch Stadium this season, which averaged a shade under seven runs per, the fewest among all ML ballparks.
Cubs-Cards NLDS Game 1 Free Picks
Heading into Friday the road teams were 4-0 in these MLB playoffs so far, including a victory by the Astros, the winner of the American League wild-card game, at Kansas City Thursday night. So perhaps playing kept Houston fresh, while sitting created some staleness. Also, both these starting pitchers are leaning UNDER this season. So for our free MLB picks on this contest we like Chicago, in a low-scoring affair.