The Cubbies are short favorites for tonight, but this handicapper loves Frisco as a dog. National League playoff contenders clash as Chicago and San Francisco open a four-game weekend series at Wrigley Field Thursday night.
Giants-Cubs Thursday Odds
As of early Thursday morning the best line we could find on Chicago with Jason Hammel was the -123 offered at BetOnline, while San Francisco and Chris (Don't Call Me Charlton) Heston were getting +115 at several shops, including Just Bet. Also, today's MLB market was holding off on posting a total on this game, probably waiting for some updated personnel information, and a fresh weather forecast.
Chicago just split two games at Pittsburgh, losing Wednesday 7-5, snapping a six-game winning streak.
San Francisco, meanwhile, just took two of three games in Atlanta, winning Wednesday 6-1. So the Giants have won seven series in a row, and 16 of their last 21 games.
Big-picture, at 59-48 San Francisco trails first-place Los Angeles by two games in the NL West, but owns the second National League wild-card spot.
On the other side of this match-up the Cubs, at 58-48, trail first-place St. Louis by 9.5 games in the NL Central, and the Giants by a half-game in that wild-card race.
This is the first series between these playoff contenders this season; last year Frisco took four of six games from the Cubbies, with the UNDERS going 4-2.
Thursday's Mound Match-Up
Hammel (6-5, 3.13), by our strict standards, is eight-for-20 on quality starts this season, running hot and cold as of late. Three starts ago he held Cincinnati to one earned run through five innings; then he got bombed for six runs in less than four innings by Philadelphia; but last Friday he held Milwaukee to one run through 5 2/3 innings. On the season Hammel has allowed 99 hits through 118 innings, walked 24 and struck out 116 (almost a 5/1 ratio).
Chicago is 9-11 in Hammel's starts, while the totals have leaned toward the UNDERS by a 12-8 margin.
Last year, pitching for Oakland, Hammel started once against San Francisco, allowing three runs – two earned – through five innings of a 5-2 A's loss.
Heston (11-5, 3.24) is 12-for-21 on quality starts, and four for his last five. Last Saturday he gave up three runs in less than five innings against Texas, but over his previous four starts he held foes to just three runs through 28 1/3 innings. On the season Heston has allowed 117 hits, just six of which have left the yard, through 131 innings, walked 37 and struck out 101.
The Giants are a solid 14-7 in Heston's starts, with the totals going 11-9.
Note, before placing your MLB picks, that this will be Heston's first-ever start against the Cubbies, and that could give him an edge, at least for the first couple of times through the lineup.
Thursday's Batting Splits
San Francisco ranks second in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .277 team batting average, and No. 1 with a .332 team on-base percentage.
Chicago ranks dead last against righties with a .236 batting average and 20th with a .310 team OBP.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at Wrigley this season have skewed toward the UNDERS by a 31-16 margin, averaging 6.9 runs per, second-fewest among all ML ballparks. Most of that, though, probably has to do with some good Cubs pitching, and a mediocre offense.
San Francisco IF Joe Panik (.374 OBP) is on the DL with a sore back, and it's possible the Giants might rest a starter or two tonight, namely C Buster Posey. Bettors might want to check the lineup card before getting down on tonight's game.
Giants-Cubs Thursday Free Picks
Tonight's pitching match-up is very close, but Chicago hasn't seen Heston before, and that could give him an edge. San Francisco also owns an advantage with the sticks, so we like the Giants tonight. Also, Cubs home games are skewing hard toward the UNDERS this season, and while we normally might believe that totals trend would eventually start reversing itself, we'll ride it tonight.
MLB Picks: San Francisco and UNDER