The Chicago Cubs are in the thick of a tight playoff race and can’t afford to drop any winnable games, and the Kansas City Royals’ season is effectively over, but don’t tell them that- they’re still rolling into Wrigley Field looking to win this weekend series. Let’s take a look at the odds for Friday’s series opener, for which I’m predicting a high-scoring affair at over 8.5 runs, while the Royals cover a spread of +1.5.
Royals vs. Cubs Prediction
After buying at the trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs are right where they need to be. After Thursday’s results, they’re just two games back in the NL Central, and are in a three-way tie for the third Wild Card, with a lead in the loss column over the other two squads.
Everything is still on the table for this team, which has the look of other late bloomers we’ve seen shake off mediocre starts and go on to win the National League like last year’s Phillies, or even the World Series like the 2019 Nationals and 2021 Braves. So far, all of the fun has been contained within the NL East, but that ends here if Chicago has anything to say about it.
They’ll be going up against a Royals team that hasn’t done much winning at any point this season, but the bats are perking up. They’re posting a very impressive OPS of .835 in August, far better than their previous best month, which was May, in which the team racked up an OPS of .742.
Kansas City also might have the starting pitching advantage, with intriguing youngster Cole Ragans set to take the mound. He’s been sharp since coming over from the Rangers in July, and shifting from the bullpen to the rotation. His last outing was a tough one, but his 2.38 ERA in those four starts is still very strong.
He’s throwing against Jameson Taillon, who had been on a hot streak- 6 earned runs in 23.2 innings across 4 starts, all Cubs wins- before imploding in his last outing, in which he gave up 8 earned runs in just 3 innings. That game wasn’t the anomaly; his ERA was over 6.00 before that run of good form.
I don’t want to pick against this Cubs team in Wrigley, but I want even less to invest in Taillon’s talent-free right arm. I’m going to strike a balance of sorts and take the Royals to cover a spread of +1.5, and absolutely invest in the over, for a total I think is just a bit low at 8.5 runs. Taillon is obviously liable to give up some runs, and while Ragans has been good of late, he doesn’t have too much of a track record of success dating back to his debut last year. Throw in a couple of questionable bullpens, and we’re looking at a great situation to bet the over.
Royals vs. Cubs Prediction: Royals +1.5 (-142), o8.5 (-114)
Royals vs. Cubs Odds
The Cubs are big home favorites with -174 odds compared to +146 for the visiting Royals. For a run scoring total of 8.5, the over is -114 while the under is set at -106
Royals vs. Cubs Key Matchups
Cole Ragans vs. On Base Threats
Even as he has shown a lot of improvement since coming over to Kansas City, Ragans has struggled a bit with walking batters. His walk rate isn’t as rough as it was in Texas, but he’s giving up more hits, leading to essentially the same WHIP as he was putting up before the trade. Unfortunately for him, he’s going up against the fifth best team in the league in terms of OBP, fueled by the fact that they have drawn the third most walks of any club.
There’s a few particular threats in this area who could give Ragans a seriously hard time, starting with deadline acquisition Jeimer Candelario. He has been absolutely insane since coming over from Washington, as he’s racked up an OBP of .462 over the past few weeks, driven in large part by a .391 batting average. Cody Bellinger is also back in nearly MVP form with a .379 OBP, and Ian Happ’s team-high 79 walks also have him in the same neighborhood with a figure of .362.
Mike Tauchman is putting up an even higher number with .372, and with even more contributors like Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson, this lineup is chock full of guys who work great at bats and get on base. With so much depth, and momentum in the right direction, this lineup is a huge reason I love the over for a total of 8.5 runs in my Royals vs. Cubs prediction.
Jameson Taillon vs. Royals Lefties
Pretty much any solid pro hitter has a good chance to get after Taillon right now, but he has been particularly poor against lefties, allowing an OPS of .900 on the dot. He’s going to have to navigate a Royals offense that has not only surged of late, but is pretty left-handed, with four lefties and a switch hitter expected to start.
The lefties start with second baseman Michael Massey, who is having one of his better months at the plate with almost a .280 batting average in August. Then there’s MJ Melendez, who has a serious preference to face righties, and has been crushing the ball this month to the tune of a 1.019 OPS.
Drew Waters, the lone switch hitter, has been significantly better as a lefty against righties, putting up a .744 OPS as opposed to his .634 total against southpaws. These guys, and a couple more at the bottom of the lineup, could definitely have some great at bats from the left side of the plate against Taillon and keep their team in this game.
Royals vs. Cubs Starting Lineups
Royals Starting Lineup
3B M. Garcia R
SS B. Witt Jr. R
2B M. Massey L
RF N. Velazquez R
LF M. Melendez L
C S. Perez R
DH D. Waters S
1B M. Duffy L
CF K. Isbel L
Cubs Starting Lineup
CF M. Tauchman L
2B N. Hoerner R
LF I. Happ S
1B C. Bellinger L
SS D. Swanson R
DH C. Morel R
3B J. Candelario S
C Y. Gomes R
RF S. Suzuki