Sunday's Series Finale Picks: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, July 20, 2014 1:27 PM UTC

Sunday, Jul. 20, 2014 1:27 PM UTC

There will probably be more Cubs fans than Diamondbacks fans in Sunday's series finale in Arizona as Chicago has spring training in the area and there are tons of Midwestern transplants in the desert. The Snakes opened as -115 favorites on MLB odds.

Trade Fallout
Baseball players are human beings. I realize that's not a newsflash, but it's important for what I'm about to explain. They have feelings and it can affect their play. I mention this because of the Chicago Cubs and how they have struggled big time since trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland on July 4. It's a common phenomenon that teams will struggle in the wake of a big trade. In this case there's the obvious on-field problem in that Samardzija and Hammel were two of the best pitchers in the National League. Now the Cubs trot out much lesser talent two days in every five on the mound.

Take a Look at the FIP Leaderboard as of July 18th!

There's also the psychological factor. First off, both were popular clubhouse guys, especially Samardzija as he's been a Cub his entire career. Secondly, the players now know that management doesn't expect to win this season and it sends them into a funk. Immediately after the trade, the Cubs lost a season-high six straight games, getting outscored 38-12 (including a 13-0 shellacking in the first game post-trade). Before the deal the Cubs had won four straight and seven of 10. Overall they have dropped nine of 11 entering Saturday after the deal. The lesson to be learned here is to pounce if a mediocre-to-bad team trades away one of its best players. Bet heavy against the team over the next week at least. I'm looking at you, Tampa Bay (David Price). Or you, Philadelphia (Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee).

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Probable Pitchers
It's Jake Arrieta for the Cubs and he's clearly the ace of the staff now in the wake of the Samardzija/ Hammel trade. While we will have to wait and see how that deal pans out for Cubs boss Theo Epstein, arguably his best so far was in early July of last year when he sent so-so starter Scott Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger to Baltimore for Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop. Feldman didn't help the Orioles get into the playoffs, while the 28-year-old Arrieta is finally living up to his immense promise, which he never did with the O's. Strop has been a solid reliever.

Arrieta (5-1, 1.95 ERA) has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just twice all season -- he didn't begin  his year until May 3 because of an injury. His 1.95 ERA since then is No. 2 in the NL behind Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs have won five of the past six times Arrieta has taken the mound. He has allowed only two home runs in 78.1 innings. Arrieta, who is 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in eight road starts, hasn't faced the Snakes this year nor did he last. Thus only a few Arizona batters have ever faced him. Aaron Hill is 4-for-11 off him with a home run. 

Right-hander Josh Collmenter (7-5, 3.80) gets the call for Arizona. His last two starts before the break were very different. On July 4 in Atlanta he was pounded for 11 hits and five runs in a loss. On July 9 at home against the Marlins, he held them to a run over seven innings in a win. Collmenter hasn't allowed a home run in his past five appearances (one in relief). He's 5-2 with a 3.13 ERA at home in 2014. He hasn't faced the Cubs. Collmenter pitched three scoreless innings of relief against them in 2013. Starlin Castro is 2-for-6 career off Collmenter while fellow All-Star Anthony Rizzo has two doubles in seven at-bats against him with two RBIs.

MLB Free Picks: Clearly Arizona is only an opening favorite because it is home. The Cubs have the better pitchers. Go with them at +105. Chicago is 4-0 in Arrieta's past four against teams with a losing record. 

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