The Cubs and Nationals bring their 3-game set to a close tonight with the rubber game of the series that finds some tight MLB odds slightly favoring Washington.
Nationals vs. Cubs Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Four more baseballs flew out of Wrigley Field on Tuesday under windy conditions in the middle game of the series between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs. But just as they did in Monday's series opener, pitchers limited their damage with each blast a solo homer, and the Cubs evened the set with a 3-2 triumph in walk-off style.
The rubber game of the set gets underway a little past 8 PM (ET) with a pitching duel between former American League rivals. Max Scherzer answers the call for Matt Williams and the Nats while Joe Maddon sends Jon Lester to the bump for Chicago.
One of just four games being played under the lights on Wednesday's baseball betting card, it's Scherzer and Washington drawing chalk in the -110 to -125 range. As usual with games played at Wrigley, the total has yet to be released and will be available later this morning on SBR's live MLB odds.
Scherzer, Lester Meet For 4th Time In Three Seasons
You can't blame anyone for conjuring up visions of a Tigers-Red Sox clash with this matchup of starting pitchers. Scherzer and Lester met three times the past two seasons as members of those teams, Detroit winning two of them, the 'under' cashing twice as well.
Eight quality starts in nine tries show up on Scherzer's 2015 scorecard, his last four starts going into the win column for the big righthander. He's allowed just two runs and 13 hits over his last 22 frames while striking out 23. Scherzer has faced the Cubs twice before, each time in Chicago where he surrendered four runs in 12 innings, earning no-decisions both times.
Lester's Cubs career got off to a rocky start with a 6.89 ERA over his first three assignments. The southpaw has since settled down to help pitch Chicago to five wins in six subsequent outings, his ERA a more Lester-like 2.25 in that span. He has performed better on the road (2.70 ERA) than at Wrigley (4.04), and is 2-0 in three previous starts vs. Washington with a 3.31 ERA.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Tonight's tilt should find Harry Hunter Wendelstedt III behind the dish, bringing a 4-2-1 O/U/P record for 2015 into the contest. He was 'under' heavy a year ago (11-16-4 O/U/P), one of the 'over' winners a 7-2 Nationals win over the Cubs last June that just slipped past the closing 8½ total at Wrigley Field.
The wind we've seen the last couple of nights on Chicago's North Side is expected to subside substantially for tonight's tilt. The weatherman is calling for clear skies and temps in the low-70s for the start, a light NW breeze (left to right) shifting to a SE zephyr (right to left) during the game. Runs have been tough to come by in the series, but I'm expecting the Nationals (-110) to score enough to cover as small road favorites on my free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Nationals -110 at BetOnline
Nationals vs. Cubs Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Credit the two pitching staffs yesterday for getting the better of the wind in the series opener between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs. Three balls did leave the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, but each was a solo shot, the two on Washington's sign enough to give the Nationals a 2-1 victory as slight underdogs on the baseball betting board.
It's the Nats who will play as small chalk this evening, ESPN's coverage of Game 2 beginning at 7 PM (ET) ESPN. Jordan Zimmermann takes his turn in the Washington rotation as the -110 favorite, Kyle Hendricks going for Chicago with a total yet to appear on the MLB odds.
Hendricks Facing Nats For 1st Time In Career
Zimmermann got an extra day off to prepare for his 10th assignment, eight of the previous nine going in the quality start column. The Nationals lost three of his first four outings, but have since won five in a row while the 29-year-old pitched to a 2.45 ERA.
The Cubs have been a bit of a thorn in Zimmermann's side over the years, especially in Chicago. Washington is 3-4 when the righthander faces the Cubs, Zimmermann's ERA a bloated 4.81 in 32 innings, three of the defeats taking place at Wrigley Field where he owns an ERA over six.
Hendricks might have finally found his groove last Thursday in San Diego where he tossed a complete game shutout in a 3-0 victory. It was the former Dartmouth star's first blank job and first CG, limiting the Padres to five hits while striking out seven. He entered that game with an ERA over five, and it's up near that mark in three home starts this season. Tuesday will be his first-ever look at the Nationals who are 20-15 against righthanders.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Crew chief Jerry Layne was missing from the umpiring quartet on Monday, and would be in line for the plate Tuesday if he returns to action. If not, Mike DiMuro is filling in on the crew and would answer the call for Layne. DiMuro is 3-5 O/U on the season, each of his last three plate assignments failing to reach the totals. Home teams are 6-2 overall, splitting the two times they have been the underdogs on the MLB odds.
Rain is in the Chicago forecast this afternoon and could delay the start of tonight's game. The weatherman is also predicting a stiff SW breeze (out to center) in the 12-18 mph range this evening, the thermometer lingering in the low-to-mid 70s.
Yesterday's total was a little higher than I expected, but with Zimmermann and Hendricks on duty today, we should see it cut by a run to around 10. The underdogs did us justice on Monday, and my free MLB pick will once again be on the 'dogs (Cubs +100).
MLB Picks: Cubs +100 at 5Dimes
Season: 29-30-2 (-1.05)
Nationals vs. Cubs Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
There still may be a few more weeks of spring left on the calendar officially, but Memorial Day has long been the traditional signal for the start of summer and a full baseball betting card is helping to get it going in style.
Two-thirds of the action takes place under the sun, assuming Mother Nature cooperates, and one of those matchups is between a pair of National League playoff hopefuls as the Washington Nationals travel to Chicago to take on the Cubs. First pitch at Wrigley Field is set for 2:20 PM (ET) and will be delivered by Tsuyoshi Wada, Tanner Roark his counterpart for the Nationals.
Wagerweb is charging -110 for anyone backing the Cubs, the total still to be released. SBR's live MLB odds should have it around 10 AM (ET).
It's the Nationals who hold a 306-279 lead in the all-time series dating back to when they were in Montreal and the clubs competed as NL East rivals. Since moving to Washington before the '05 campaign, the margin is 35-31 in favor of the Nats, and they've also won 17 of the 32 contests played in Chicago.
A 4-game series at Wrigley a year ago was halved, the 'over' prevailing three times. Seven of the last 11 on this diamond went to the visitors, six of the most recent eight hurdling the scoreboard mark.
Nats Red Hot Entering Final Week Of May
Washington (26-18, +3.2 units) will close out what has been a great month of May so far on the road, the Nationals traveling to Cincinnati for a 3-game weekend series with the Reds after this stop. They're 16-5 in May, 19-5 the last 24 games, and have built a 2½ game lead in the NL East thanks to an offense leading the league in scoring (4.82 rpg) and a bullpen that ranks fifth in ERA (3.08).
With Doug Fister on the DL due to a strained flexor tendon in his right arm, Roark slides into Washington's rotation for the near future. Roark's 13 appearances this season have all come from the bullpen where he managed to pick up a save along the way, the Nats winning each of his last seven calls. He had made nine consecutive appearances without allowing a home run until eight days ago in San Diego when Padres outfielder Justin Upton took him deep..
Roark has faced the Cubs three times in his career, two of them starts which both came last year in back-to-back outings. The former Fighting Illini took the loss in each of those matchups, allowing eight runs and 19 hits in 13 innings.
Wind Expected To Be Blowing Out At Wrigley
Chicago (24-19, +2.4 units) spent last week on the road, splitting six games in San Diego and Arizona. The Cubs have managed to gain some ground on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race the last 10 days or so, currently 3½ behind as they begin a 6-game homestand that finds the AL-leading Kansas City Royals in town this weekend.
A groin strain put Wada on the DL back in the spring, and he finally made his season debut in San Diego five days ago. Chicago manager Joe Maddon only let him throw 69 pitches before removing Wada in the fifth, but he'd already struck out nine Padres by then and should be in line to increase that to at least 80 tosses on Monday when he faces the Nationals for the first time in his career.
There is a 20% chance for showers in the afternoon forecast with temps in the mid-70s. Of more interest to baseball bettors is the wind conditions, 20+ mph from the SW (out to center). hat has me thinking we'll see a total around 9½ or 10, which would be the highest in a Washington game this month with the Nats on a 12-3 O/U run. The 'over' is a tempting MLB pick, but I'm going to ride Washington +100 for my free baseball pick.
MLB Picks: Washington +100
Season: 29-30-2 (-1.05)