Tied in a race for the NL’s last playoff spot with just four games to go, the Chicago Cubs need every game they can get, but they’ve blown major leads in each of the first couple of games in this series with the Atlanta Braves. With absolutely everything on the line for a Chicago team that boldly bought at the deadline, let’s get into the odds for this game and make some picks, where my prediction is a Cubs win.
Cubs Vs. Braves Prediction
As cliche as it is, this season has been the very definition of a rollercoaster for the Chicago Cubs and their fans. The Northsiders started their season cold, sitting below .500 for most of the first half despite owning a fairly positive run differential, before making a serious surge, in which they won eight games in a row, all against their biggest two rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. This went down just before the trade deadline, empowering the front office to hold onto the team’s best pieces, and even go out and buy a few more.
Lately, things have gone less according to plan, as the team cooled off at the worst time and lost 10 of 13 games, dropping them from a fight for the four-seed or even the division crown, to barely hanging on in the Wild Card race; they’re tied with the Miami Marlins for the sixth seed right now. The Marlins own the head-to-head tiebreaker, and the MLB eliminated “Game 163” tiebreakers, and with Miami playing a soft final few games, the Cubs need to start winning immediately, but the start to this series with the Braves hasn’t helped the effort. Chicago led 6-0 in the first contest, but lost 7-6, capped off by an incredibly costly dropped fly ball by Seiya Suzuki which allowed the final two runs to score, and then entered bottom of the ninth with a lead on Wednesday before Marcell Ozuna tied it up with a solo blast; Atlanta won in 10 innings.
The Braves are the best team in baseball by far, they’re approaching the all-time team home run record, and they’re the first squad with four hitters to smack over 35 homers, including Matt Olson and his MLB-best 53. That being said, they have very little to play for at this point, as the NL’s top seed is secured, with Atlanta owning the season series over the LA Dodgers, so the Cubs really have no excuse for continually losing to a team that has nothing left to fight for. With All Star pitcher Marcus Stroman taking the mound against a relative unknown in AJ Smith-Shawver, the Cubs must and will find a way to salvage the final game of this series, before heading into an all-important final three games in Milwaukee.
Cubs Vs. Braves Prediction: Cubs ML (+120)
Cubs Vs. Braves Odds
CHC @ ATL
Sep. 28, 6:20 PM
Odds updated September 28th, 2023, at 8:59 pm
The Cubs are +120 underdogs on the road compared to -145 for the Braves, while the total is set at 9.5 with the over at +100 odds and -120 for the under.
Cubs Vs. Braves Key Matchups
Marcus Stroman vs. Second Time Through The Lineup
Stroman is back from an injury to his right hip, and he’s likely hoping to work on getting some length into his outings; he’s thrown two, one, and three innings in his trio of outings since his return. Interestingly enough, the second time through the lineup was a serious enemy of his even before he was sidelined; he allows an opponent OPS of .528 in the first inning and .654 in the second, but that number balloons up to a total of .926 in the third, accompanied by an ERA of 7.99. That’s usually when you see the top of the order for a second time, so let’s take a look at the first group of batters who will get a second crack at Stroman.
The Braves’ leadoff hitter is their most dangerous; NL MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuña Jr., who just became the first player to ever crack 40 homers and steal 70 bases in a season. Ozzie Albies is up next with a WAR over 4, and then it’s Austin Riley who has earned an impressive WAR himself with a figure of 5.7. The cleanup hitter is of course Matt Olson, a lefty slugger who has smacked more homers than anyone else in the majors this year, and you can’t pitch around him; Marcell Ozuna is up next with 37 bombs of his own. It’s a tough start to the lineup, and facing it twice could be a real challenge for Stroman.
AJ Smith-Shawver vs. Lefty Bats
AJ Smith-Shawver is just 21.2 innings into his MLB career, spread across five outings including four starts, but he’s already displaying one rather striking split; he allows an OPS of 1.043 to lefties, but a figure of just .485 to right handers, with similar sample sizes on both sides. This is a common issue for right-handed rookies, as they adjust to the challenge of pitching to major-league left handers, and he won’t run into too many in the Cubs lineups but they are prominent.
Mike Tauchman leads things off for Chicago, and he’s a solid threat to start things off by getting on base with an OBP of .362. Ian Happ should be hitting third, and he’s a switch hitter but much prefers facing righties as a lefty, with an OPS over .800 in those situations. Lastly, there’s Cody Bellinger, a former MVP who has reached that level at times this year, and doesn’t have a traditional platoon split but is still a daunting challenge for anyone who struggles with lefties. These batters are a major reason why I have the Cubs hitting that +120 moneyline in my Cubs vs. Braves prediction.
Cubs Vs. Braves Starting Lineups
Cubs Starting Lineup
CF M. Tauchman L
2B N. Hoerner R
LF I. Happ S
1B C. Bellinger L
SS D. Swanson R
RF S. Suzuki R
DH C. Morel R
C Y. Gomes R
3B N. Madrigal R
Braves Starting Lineup
RF R. Acuña Jr. R
2B O. Albies S
3B A. Riley R
1B M. Olson L
DH M. Ozuna
CF M. Harris II L
C S. Murphy R
LF E. Rosario L
SS O. Arcia R