Two of the NL's worst collide when the Marlins host the Cubs for 4 games, and SBR will follow the entire series with previews and free picks.
Sunday's Game 4
By: Willie Bee
The Chicago Cubs have to be feeling pretty good about themselves with three straight wins and a chance to finish 5-5 on a 10-game road trip that started out 0-4. The same can't be said for the Miami Marlins who have to be wondering just who they can beat if not the Cubs.
Chicago takes aim at a 4-game sweep at in Miami this afternoon, and the Cubs are favorites in the -115 to -125 range behind Carlos Villanueva. The Marlins counter with Ricky Nolasco and the MLB odds board is showing 7 for the total, a few 7.5's also popping up Sunday morning.
Another close, low-scoring game was the result on Saturday as the Cubs nipped the Fish, 3-2. It had the look of a more offensive affair when it stood 2-2 after the first two frames, but pitching prevailed from that point on. Or was it more a case of weak offenses? The teams have combined for 18 runs the last three days, and four of those came plateward on two swings by Chicago's Anthony Rizzo in Game 2.
Villanueva should be 4-0 instead of 1-0 at this point of the campaign. The Dominican brings a 1.53 ERA into Sunday, allowing just 22 baserunners in 29+ innings. He has served up four home runs, three of them in his last two assignments, but those came against far more powerful lineups in the Rangers and Reds.
Nolasco is coming off his first and only win in five starts, and was the beneficiary of a rare explosion by the Marlins' lineup last Tuesday at Minnesota. Miami lost Nolasco's first four outings while scoring just five runs in those games, then plated eight at the Twins. He got roughed up a bit last year when he met the Cubs on this field (5.1 IP, 3 ER), but still came away the winning pitcher.
The roof should be open at Cha-Cha-Cha Stadium this afternoon when partly cloudy skies are accompanied by temperatures climbing into the low-80s. Handling plate duties will be Jim Joyce, five of his six previous contests behind the mask staying below the total one season after 23 of his 35 assignments going OVER.
Maybe Miami bats break out on Sunday, but maybe ain't a good enough reason to bet it will happen. The Cubs pull of the broom job today. Meanwhile in New York, the Phillies and Mets are drawing their weekend set to a conclusion, and you won't want to miss SBR's preview and free pick in that matchup.
My pick: Cubs -114 at Will Hill
Saturday's Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Anthony Rizzo broke out of his slump in a big way Friday night to help the Chicago Cubs to their first 2-game winning streak of the season. Everything appears to be in place for them to make it three in a row Saturday evening in Game 3 of their series at the Miami Marlins.
A quick glance at SBR's live MLB odds finds the Cubs favored in the -130 to -135 range. Lefty Travis Wood is slated to hurl for Chicago opposite Miami's Alex Sanabia, and the 7.5 run total generally favors the OVER.
Rizzo entered the game in a 1-for-19 rut, but mashed a pair of 2-run homers in his first two trips to the plate to account for all of Chicago's scoring. Scott Feldman pitched into the seventh inning for his first dubya of 2013, and Dale Sveum pushed all of the right bullpen buttons to help the Cubs secure the 4-2 decision.
Miami dropped to an MLB-worst 5-18 with the loss, the fifth in the past six games. Cubs fans once again stayed away in droves, and Miami's lineup continued to prove its impotence. Rizzo's two blasts gave him eight homers for the season while the entire Marlins team has hit seven.
If there's any good news for the Fish, it's the fact that Sanabia has won twice this season and Marlins hitters are showing up for his starts. Miami has scored 21 runs in Sanabia's four outings, more than 35% of their entire 23-game output (59 runs). Then again, opposing teams have scored 27 times in those contests and Sanabia has issued 14 walks in 23 frames, so the safest bet has been the OVER, a perfect 4-0.
Wood has followed up a decent spring with an outstanding start to the regular season. His 2.08 ERA after four trips to the mound rank 11th in the National League, and his 1.04 WHIP is 13th. The Cubs still managed to drop his last two assignments despite that, and the Marlins have pounded on Wood in his two previous starts against them, scoring 15 runs in just eight combined innings.
Cory Blaser is scheduled to be under the mask for this contest, and his previous plate assignments have run 3-2 to the OVER. Home teams are also just 1-4 when Blaser calls the balls and strikes.
Fade alert! Fade alert! My free pick for this one is the UNDER. If you're looking for more fade material, check out coverage of the Phillies and Mets series before heading to the window.
My pick: Cubs-Marlins Under 7.5 (+100) at 5Dimes
Friday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
You know times are bad in Miami when Chicago Cubs fans won't even show up at Marlins games. A little more than 15K made it out Thursday to see Chicago post a 4-3 win over the Fish, and Friday's pitching matchup doesn't hold much promise of drawing customers to Marlins Park.
Perhaps the prospect of another tight battle will bring fans to the ballpark, though we're not holding our breath. The MLB odds are once again close to a pick 'em with Chicago priced at -108 for Game 2. A battle between a pair of 0-3 pitchers is on tap as Scott Feldman takes the hill for the Cubs against Miami's Wade LeBlanc, and totals bettors are faced with an 8 run mark that favors neither side of the wager.
The good news for first-year manager Mike Redmond is his Marlins scored above their season average in Game 1. The bad news is they just barely beat their 2.59 RPG clip and couldn't score to force extra innings in the ninth off Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, who has been anything but a mystery to hitters in 2013.
After spending the previous eight seasons splitting his time in the rotation and bullpen for the Texas Rangers, Feldman finally has the chance to start full-time for the Cubs. His 0-3 record suggests he should go back to being a long reliever instead. Only half of the 14 runs scored against him have been earned, but his own defense is to blame for some of that along with 10 walks in 14 frames.
Friday will be Feldman's first career appearance against the Marlins.
LeBlanc was decent enough in his first two starts of 2013, but hasn't made it past the fourth inning in two assignments since then. It's easy to find holes when a pitcher owns a 6.27 ERA, but the most glaring in LeBlanc's case is an 8.38 ERA in two home starts. The southpaw faced the Cubs once as a starter and did well (7 IP, 2 ER), but that was two years ago while toiling for the Padres at Petco Park.
The umpire rotation calls for Jim Wolf to be under the mask tonight, and his four previous plate appearances have all ended with the final score failing to reach the total. None of those contests featured a scoreboard tally higher than 8.5 runs, and one of them involved the Marlins (April 7 at Mets).
Both offenses could break out this evening against these two starters, which has me thinking OVER. Instead, I'm going to put some blind faith in LeBlanc turning around his slow start and will add the underdog Fish to my sports picks tonight.
My MLB Pick: Marlins -102 at The Greek
Thursday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
A good prop bet for this series between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs would be an Over/Under for total attendance over the next four days. The Cubs always draw their fans out of the woodwork wherever they go, but will it be enough to fill 100,000 seats even with it being an extended weekend series?
We'll see this Sunday when the clubs conclude the long set at Marlins Park with previews and picks the entire way. Make that previews and fades since my free MLB picks have been in the toilet the past two weeks.
Everything gets going Thursday night with a matchup of winless righthanders in Edwin Jackson and Kevin Slowey. Fittingly, such a matchup opened as a pick 'em at Bookmaker where the total went out 7.5 (U -120). Action on the Windy City squad shifted the MLB odds slightly in favor of the Cubs overnight as the total sat pretty steady.
This series might actually be the best way to spend the next four days. Low-80s during the day, low-70s at night and a few clouds will be way better than what some of the country will endure the early part of the weekend, and it should be relatively easy to walk up and buy a good ticket for any game in this series.
It's just the second homestand for the Marlins who are bringing up the rear of the National League at 5-14. They were a woeful 2-7 on the previous homestand, and averaged just over 19K per game, almost a fifth of their total attendance in the home opener when they sold tickets for a near-capacity crowd.
I believe the Marlins can average 25,000 per game the next four days with Cubs fans turning out by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, wanting to escape the crazy spring weather in that part of the country. Over 99K in attendance in this series for Jeffrey Loria's lads is the first of the free picks I'm handing out.
Miami Bats Go Silent When Slowey Takes The Mound
It's tough to get behind either pitcher the way their luck has run. Slowey hasn't pitched badly, but his lineup fails to show up when it's his turn in the rotation, and Jackson has succumbed to poor support, poor defense or just plain poor pitching on his part.
Jackson has been decent away from Wrigley Field allowing just three earned runs over 11 innings. Still, the Cubs found a way to lose both games. Thursday will be his first assignment at Marlins Park, and the righthander is 1-3 with a 4.07 ERA in his last four starts vs. the Marlins.
Slowey owns a nice 1.90 ERA in his four starts covering almost 24 innings, the 11th-lowest ERA in the National League. But Marlins hitters have scored just three times in those outings and rank dead last in the majors averaging 2.57 runs per game. He has faced the Cubs just once in his career, an interleague start at Wrigley Field in 2009 where he grabbed the win for the Twins (6 IP, 3 ER).
Fish Hope To Add To Edge In Series History
The Marlins hold an 85-81 advantage over the course of this series history, that record including the 2003 NLCS that most Cubs fans would like to forget. Certainly Steve Bartman will never forget it. Games in Miami are 40-38 in favor of the Fish, again counting that playoff series, and the Marlins swept the Cubs last season when Chicago's North Side squad made its first and only trip to the new stadium.
Hopefully, you have been fading my plays recently as they have gone about as sour as Miami's love for the Marlins' owner. I'm going to make my wager in this one on the UNDER for no particular reason at all.
Stay in touch for losing picks the entire weekend, and count on a lot of Cubs fans at the Cha-Cha-Cha Dome cheering their team on in this series.
My MLB Pick: Cubs-Marlins Under 7.5