There are plenty of storylines heading into this week's series between the Cardinals and Cubs, but at the end of the day, the biggest story is how bad St. Louis has looked this season. We’ll preview today’s game before going over which team I’m backing in the first five innings and for the game.
Tonight will be Wilson Contreras ’s first game back at Wrigley Field, and I can’t imagine he thought he would be coming into this series on a team with a worse record than the Cubs. Even with their win over the Tigers yesterday to avoid getting swept, the Cardinals are still 2-8 over their last ten games and 11-24 overall. St. Louis scored 12 runs in yesterday's win, mainly thanks to Paul Goldschmidt, who hit three home runs.
The Cardinals may have won yesterday, but their pitching staff also allowed five or more runs for the seventh straight game. Looking to end that streak today, the Cardinals will send Miles Mikolas to the mound to make his eighth start of the season. Up to this point, the right-hander has thrown 37.3 innings and has a 5.79 ERA with 34 strikeouts and nine walks.
Mikolas will face a Cubs team tonight that failed to complete their sweep of the Marlins yesterday but still scored four runs for the third straight game. Chicago is second in the league in BAbip this season, and the middle of their lineup with Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger has been swinging the bat at a high level all season, but especially over the past three games.
Marcus Stroman will get the ball for the Cubs today as he looks to continue his strong start to the year. In 41.3 innings, the veteran has put up a 2.18 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 16 walks. Stroman got the no-decision in his most recent outing, as he went six innings with five strikeouts and one earned run.
For my plays in this one, I’ll be targeting the Cubs run line for both the first five innings and the game. The F5 run-line of (-.5) is currently priced at (+108), while the full game spread of (-1.5) is priced at (+163). The Cubs are in the top ten in the league in average runs per game scored in the first five innings when at home, while St. Louis is 24th in the same category when playing on the road.
In his seven starts this season, Marcus Stroman has allowed two or fewer runs in the first five innings in all of his starts. Stroman has also thrown six or more innings in six of his starts, and he hands it off to a Cubs bullpen with an ERA of 3.56 and an opponent batting average of .208, which is also why I like the full-game spread.
Not only is St. Louis 4-17 in the last 21 opening games of series they’ve played, but they are also 21st in average runs scored by their opponents in the first five innings. Miles Mikolas is in the 21st percentile in barrel percentage and has an ERA of 4.26 or higher in four of the first five innings this season. The Cardinals bullpen also allows the sixth-highest BAbip in the Majors as well.
Chicago Cubs F5 (-.5)(+108)
Chicago Cubs (-1.5)(+163)