The All Star break is a week or so in the rearview, and there’s some great rivalry action upon us; it’s time for another edition of the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry, one of the best in the sport. Let’s take a look at the odds for this NL Central clash, where my prediction is a Cubs win and the under to hit at -115 odds for a total of 8.5 runs.
Cardinals Vs. Cubs Prediction
The Cardinals won their last series before the All Star break, another visit to Chicago, but this one was to the South Side to face the White Sox. They carried that momentum through the week off, as after losing their first game back, they ripped off five consecutive wins coming into the Cubs series, and won game 1 at Wrigley in convincing fashion. They’ll be throwing Jack Flaherty on Friday, and he’s had a pretty tough year, although things are stabilizing a bit.
However, he’ll need more than just a slightly better performance, as he’s going up against Justin Steele, one of the best arms in the NL, and really in the whole league this season. Steele came into the league a couple of years ago as a promising talent with a few question marks, and has all but erased them, he has consistently improved as his career has progressed.
With the trade deadline fast approaching with just over a week to go, both of these clubs have some decisions to make. Both spent the offseason acting as teams that planned to compete this season, and neither is really doing so, but neither is entirely out as of now. With just over 2 months to go, the Cubs are 8 games behind in the NL Central, while the Cardinals are 10.5 back- big deficits, but neither comeback would be unprecedented, and the Brewers aren’t really an iron-clad frontrunner. The teams are both a game and a half closer to a Wild Card spot than the North crown, likely sellers at the deadline, but a timely run of wins- like the one St. Louis is on right now- could change everything.
Of course, this can’t be the launching point of a winning streak for both teams, one team at most can come out of this game and series with momentum. That team should be the Cubs, even with the Cardinals’ suddenly-strong form, picking against the current version of Steele is simply a bad move, even though his last start was subpar. In a similar vein, I like the under a lot, Steele should bounce back and I’m intrigued to see what Flaherty can do as well.
Cardinals Vs. Cubs Prediction: Cubs ML (-130), u8.5 runs (-115)
Cardinals Vs. Cubs Odds
At home, the Cubs are favored with -130 odds while the visiting Cardinals are +110. For a total of 8.5 runs, the over is -105 and the under is -115.
Cardinals Vs. Cubs Key Matchups
Justin Steele Vs. Elite Hitters
Looking at Steele’s traditional stats as well as statcast metrics, it’s hard to find an achilles heel, as he’s done a great job inducing chases and limiting hard contact. So, the only specific group of hitters that really concerns me are simply the very best ones. Luckily for the Cardinals, they have a pair of those.
One is of course defending NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt. There’s really not enough good things you can say about Goldschmidt as a hitter, and I consider his MVP to be one of the most-overdue honors I’ve ever seen. He’s not putting up MVP-caliber numbers this year, but is still way above league-average.
He’s joined by Nolan Arenado, who finished third in the MVP vote last year. He’s also not hitting quite as well as a year ago, and certainly nowhere near his insane altitude-boosted Colorado numbers, but is ahead of Goldschmidt in most categories and continues to be one of the very best in the business.
Steele does do a bit worse against lefties, although unsurprisingly, those numbers still are not too bad. The top of the Cardinals lineup does have a few left-handers, starting right at the top. Brendan Donovan has been a breakout success this year, Nolan Gorman is behind just Goldschmidt and Arenado on the team OPS leaderboard, and World Baseball Classic fan favorite Lars Nootbaar is another steady contributor for one of baseball’s better top-to-bottom lineups. Even so, Steele’s ability to shut down even elite lineups is a big reason why I have the Cubs -115 moneyline in my Cubs vs. Cardinals prediction.
Jack Flaherty Vs. On-Base Threats
In what has been a tough year overall, Flaherty’s home run and hard contact rates have been pretty strong actually, while his WHIP and walk rate have been pretty rough. It’s definitely great to be limiting the big swings, but letting men on base essentially for free can be problematic, so let’s take a look at some hitters who are great at getting on, especially by walking.
The Cubs are the league’s 8th best team by OBP, so they have a chance to hit Flaherty where it hurts. Catcher Miguel Amaya is one guy who can do that, he’s played 26 games but is off to a really nice start with an OBP approaching .400. As far as guys who have played more time, Ian Happ is tops on the team OBP list, with a mark of .373 driven by 66 walks.
Cody Bellinger has also been great in what has been a truly resurgent season, he’s up next on the list with an OBP of .367. Seiya Suzuki and Dansby Swanson have also been real contributors, with OBPs in the .340s and 35 and 40 walks, respectively. With these disciplined bats and more in the fold, I believe that the Cubs can do enough to get to Flaherty and win this ballgame to avoid the sweep.
Cardinals Vs. Cubs Starting Lineups
Cardinals Starting Lineup
2B B. Donovan L
1B P. Goldschmidt R
LF L. Nootbaar L
3B N. Arenado R
DH N. Gorman L
C W. Contreras R
RF J. Walker R
SS P. DeJong R
CF D. Carlson S
Cubs Starting Lineup
SS N. Hoerner R
RF S. Suzuki R
LF I. Happ S
2B C. Morel R
CF C. Bellinger L
C Y. Gomes R
3B P. Wisdom R
1B T. Mancini R
DH M. Amaya R