For a majority of the game last night, the Chicago Cubs looked to be in control and on their way to helping themselves in the wild card, but one misplayed fly ball in the 8th inning suddenly made the Cubs look like the cursed team they once were prior to winning a World Series. Even after the loss, Chicago can still make the postseason, and we’ll preview their game tonight before going over my play for the first five innings.
There’s no denying the Cubs came out motivated to win last night, as they opened the game by holding a 6-0 lead into the sixth inning. However, before Seiya Suzuki would even be put in the position to misplay a potential inning-ending flyball, the Cubs bullpen would let the Braves slowly creep back into the game. After Justin Steele allowed three runs in the bottom of the 6th, Javier Assad would come in and allow a two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-5.
With the game now within reach for Atlanta, the Braves would get some help from Suzuki’s error, with two runs scoring on the play to make it 7-6 Atlanta. With even more pressure to win tonight, the Cubs will send out Jameson Taillon to make his 29th start of the year. It’s been a less-than-ideal year for the right-hander, but he will enter tonight off a six-shutout inning performance over the Rockies.
Taillon won’t be facing a Rockies-caliber lineup tonight, as he will instead be facing arguably the best lineup in baseball this season. By scoring seven runs last night, the Braves have now scored seven or more runs in four of their last five games. Prior to Atlanta taking the lead on the error, they would get their offense off the bats of Matt Olson, Marcell Ozuna, and Ronald Acuna Jr., much like they have all season.
Toeing the slab for Atlanta tonight will be young right-hander Darius Vines, who will be making just his second career start and fifth career appearance. Vines turned in a solid six-inning debut when he was first called up, but he is coming off a 3.1-inning relief appearance in which he allowed three earned runs to the Nationals.
The Cubs F5 moneyline is currently priced at (+130), and I’ll be backing them for my play. While last night’s loss was heartbreaking, the Cubs did cover as underdogs last night on the F5, and they are still playing a Braves team that is 5-9 SU on the F5 moneyline in their last 14 games. With the motivation factor at an all-time high for the Cubbies, I think we see them come out aggressively with their backs against the wall.
Over the last month, the Cubs offense ranks 13th in wRC+ and 12th in wOBA and hard hit percentage against right-handed pitching. Their matchup, Darius Vines, while early in his career, is still pitching to a 5.26 FIP at home and has struggled against right-handed hitters. Vines has a 7.15 xFIP against righties, and the Cubs lineup will roll out at least six highly motivated righties tonight against him.
Atlanta’s offense will be no easy matchup for Taillon since they have the second-highest wRC+ against right-handed pitching the last month, but the veteran has performed better in the second half of the season. Taillon is pitching to a 4.05 xFIP in the second half of the season and is slightly above league average in hard hit percentage, so he could keep an Atlanta team without nothing to play for, at bay for a few innings.
Chicago Cubs F5 (+130)