Feeling the distancing pressure in the National League pennant race from the fast-moving Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals took steps to improve some of their most suspect areas in a couple of deals late last week.
The Cubs acquired veteran left-hander Jose Quintana from the White Sox for four minor leaguers, including a pair of top prospects. The price was steep, but the dividends started to come back early as Quintana struck out 12 in his Cubs’ debut in just seven innings as Chicago beat Baltimore, 8-0, on Saturday.
Despite the deal, oddsmakers weren’t impressed, making virtually no move on the Cubs, usually one of the books’ biggest liabilities.
Meanwhile, late Sunday the Washington Nationals made a big move to get standout left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle from the A’s, along with bullpen mate Ryan Madsen, for right-hander Blake Treinen and two minor league prospects.
The loss of Treinen could shorten Washington’s rotation in the long run after Joe Ross was lost for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery. Washington is around 6.5-to-1.
The Dodgers have slipped away to a 64-29 record, nearly approaching a .700 winning percentage, taking over the league’s top record from Houston. L.A. is around a 3.5-to-1 choice to win the series, while the Astros are currently 4-1.
This finally is a critical race to track since the World Series will be hosted by, get this, the team with the overall best record in the regular season.
CUB (+105, 8.5o20) at ATL (Wed., 9:10): Very early start as very profitable R.A. Dickey (+5.75 units) has been stellar at home for resurgent Braves with his 5-1 home mark with a 3.13 ERA.
The Cubs’ Mike Montgomery, meanwhile, is down nearly 3.5 units and is winless on the road as he continues in his hybrid role with an ERA over 12.00 in his last three outings.
STL (EV, 8) at NYM (Wed., 4): Mets’ Jake deGrom has been super sharp at home with a 5-2 mark and 2.37 ERA, but Cards’ Mike Leake has fared well on the road with a 4-2 mark and just a 2.84 ERA.
Both pitchers allow the expected opposing lineups in the neighborhood of .320 career-wise. Leake has won just one of his last nine starts, however, while DeGrom is up over 3.25 units this season.
TEX (-113, 9u20) at BAL (Thu. 4:05): Color Cole Hamels’ DL return complete after back-to-back seven-inning scoreless efforts vs. the Angels and at KC. He has held the likely BAL lineup to just around a .225 average over 100 PAs over his career.
Wade Miley, meanwhile, has wilted late in the first half, much like the O’s, and has a 4-8 overall record with a 5.40 ERA. Miley has allowed this expected Rangers lineup to nearly a .300 average over a 100-plus PA sample.
NYY (+112, 8o20) at SEA (Thu., 7:10): Funny to think Felix Hernandez was actually taking some heat from some so-called fans after a string of unsuccessful starts.
He’s seemed sharp in his last two efforts and is 4-1 at home with a 3.82 ERA. The Yankees’ Luis Severino is winless in his last six starts, but still maintains good overall numbers with a 3.02 ERA on the road and 1.15 WHIP overall.
STL (+120) at CUB (Fri., 11:20): Friday matinee has Jake Arrieta for the Cubs getting things back into some kind of form of late, allowing four earned runs in his first three starts and he holds the expected Cards lineup to just around a .200 average in a 120 PA sample.
The Cards’ Carlos Martinez has been a bigger money burner than Arrieta, dropping just over 5.0 units this season. Arrieta is around -3.0 units.
HOU (NL) at BAL (Fri, 4:05): Ubaldo Jimenez has been the recipient of such tremendous run support that he is up over 3.5 units for his backers despite an ERA over 7.00. He’s allowed 24 runs over his last five starts, but one of those included eight innings against TOR with no earned runs.
A lot is being asked of rookie Joe Musgrove of the Astros, as he is 0-4 over his live five starts since returning from a DL stint, so this could be the spot for the return of Collin McHugh after his rehab from an elbow impingement.
TEX (+120, 9o20) at TB (Sat., 4:10): Chris Archer has done pretty well against this expected Rangers’ lineup, holding them to just over a .200 average with a decent 100 PA-plus sample. Archer had trouble with his control last time out, but is easily one of the most consistent starters in the game.
The Rangers have tried to find a formula for Andrew Cashner, but he’s on the other end of the consistency spectrum, coming off arguably a season-best effort last out vs. BOS.
WAS (EV, 8.5) at ARI (Sat., 5:10): Zack Godley continues to be sharp for the D’backs, especially at home where he has a 2.51 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP overall, but he has dropped his last three outings. The expected Nats’ lineup hits below .200 against Godley in a couple of lifetime starts. Tanner Roark comes in with a 5.23 ERA on the road for the Nats and picked up his first win over his last seven starts last time out.
HOU (-125, 9.5u20) at BAL (Sun., 10:35): Lance McCullers makes the start for HOU off a short DL stint. Still, it would seem no panic for the Astros, as McCullers is 7-2 this season, up over 3 units for his backers. He has been very strong against the expected Birds lineup, holding it to a scant .150 or so with around a 75 PA sample. The Orioles’ Dylan Bundy has been okay at home with a 3.86 ERA and he had a good trip or two around some of these bats in a small tracking. He is 3-7 over his last 10 starts despite an 8-8 overall mark.
STL (+102) at CUB (Sun., 5): Jon Lester sure to get dissected again on the national game of the week, especially following his disaster 0 IP against PIT last week. Still, he has maintained a 3.73 ERA at home despite winning just two of his last nine starts overall. Interesting test for Michael Wacha, who was in season-best form with three-straight wins coming into the week, but has been disastrous overall on the road with a 7.03 ERA this season. This Cubs’ lineup has hit over .320 against Wacha in nearly 100 PAs.