After the Royals, who are effectively done for the year, shocked the Cubs by taking game one of this Wrigley Field series on Friday afternoon, the Northsiders need to get back into the win column to hold position in a tight NL playoff race. Let’s take a look at the odds for Saturday’s game 2, for which I’m predicting the over for a total of 9.5 runs, and the Cubs to cover a spread of -1.5.
Royals vs. Cubs Prediction
Game 1 should have featured more scoring than it did; the two teams turned a total of 17 hits, five walks, and three errors into just seven runs, and the Cubs- who had the lion’s share of hits and walks- should’ve come out on top, but that’s not always how things play out. What may have been the difference was the performance of star players on each side.
Chicago’s Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, and Christopher Morel all had uncharacteristic off days, combining to go 0-13, while Royals rising star Bobby Witt Jr. picked up 2 hits of his own, including a huge go-ahead home run that sealed the win.
The stakes remain high for Chicago, who are beginning to slip just a bit after surging into the NL playoff picture. After peaking with a series win over the Braves, they lost two games in a three game set against a Mets team that has clearly given up, and more recently, worked a tough split in a two game mini-series against a terrible White Sox squad, and then of course dropped game 1 against the Royals.
For the first time since getting themselves back into the NL’s top six, the Cubs have fallen out; they will hope that their absence is extremely short-lived. With series coming up against some of their direct competitors for both the Central division crown and the NL Wild Card Spots, they’re going to need to reclaim some of the magic they found after sticking with their talent and even trading for reinforcements at the deadline.
The Cubs need to win this game, and they’re going to- in fact with Brady Singer on the mound for the Royals, they have a chance to do so quite comfortably, which is why I have them covering a spread of -1.5. Chicago’s Justin Steele is having a much better year, with his sub-3.00 ERA good for second-best in the NL, but he’s in a bit of a cold streak, having allowed three earned runs in each of his past three outings. With Steele in bad form and Singer simply throwing badly in general, I’m also a big fan of the over.
Royals vs. Cubs Prediction: Cubs -1.5 (+105), o9.5 (-112)
Royals vs. Cubs Odds
After losing game 1, the Cubs are still very well favored at -185, compared to +154 for the Royals. For a total of 9.5 runs, the over is -112 while the under is right around there at -108.
Royals vs. Cubs Key Matchups
Brady Singer vs. Contact Hitters
Despite the fact that Singer struggles tremendously with allowing hard hits, he actually doesn’t allow too many barrels or home runs. Since he doesn’t walk too many guys either, most of the damage is done in the form of base hits. He’ll have his work cut out for him against Chicago, a top-10 team in the majors in terms of batting average, with some guys swinging a very hot bat over the past month or so.
He hasn’t been long, but Jeimer Candelario’s .396 average as a Cub is a testament to the strong start he’s had in his new home. As far as qualified hitters, Cody Bellinger is batting a remarkable .323 in what has been a genuine renaissance season for the former NL MVP. Nico Hoerner is right behind Bellinger, batting .284; with 469 at bats across 112 games, he’s been the team’s most reliable contributor this year. This lineup is full of guys with a great approach who make solid contact, and is a major reason why I have the Cubs covering a spread of -1.5 in my Royals vs. Cubs prediction.
Justin Steele vs. Contact Hitters
Same matchup once more! Steele does a good job of avoiding a lot of the things pitchers look to minimize during their time on the mound; he doesn’t really give up homers, and his walk rate is very solid. One issue is that he does give up a good amount of base hits, and has a tough time forcing whiffs and limiting xBA. Kansas City doesn’t exactly have an elite offense in terms of batting average, but it’s actually a good bit better than you’d imagine based on the team’s overall performance- they’re 19th in the league in the statistic, not too far from the middle of the pack.
Unsurprisingly, Bobby Witt Jr. is the team’s qualified batting average leader. With a very solid mark of .278. Maikel Garcia has also been sharp this year in fairly limited playing time, 89 games so far, but is hitting .284 across the 335 opportunities he’s had. Nelson Velazquez is hitting .308 since coming over from none other than the Cubs, but with an incredibly small sample size of 8 games, all that really means is that he’s been hot over the last couple of weeks; not nothing, but not particularly meaningful.
Corner infielder Matt Duffy is also hitting pretty well with a .269 average over 65 games, and Salvador Pérez continues to hit way better than the average catcher with a mark of .254 in his 12th big league season. It will be far from a walk in the park for Steele, but he has every ability to get back on track and have a great start.
Royals vs. Cubs Starting Lineups
Royals Starting Lineup
3B M. Garcia R
SS B. Witt Jr. R
2B M. Massey L
C S. Perez R
LF M. Melendez L
RF N. Velazquez 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