Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs
First pitch: 5:05 p.m. PT
TV: MLB Network
Probable pitchers: Jake Arrieta (4-4, 4.02 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.14 ERA)
There’s an event so big on tonight’s slate that it’s being broadcast nationally as an MLB Network Showcase. Actually, I don’t know if there’s a correlation there but either way, Arrieta making his first start in the Windy City as a visiting opponent is a really huge deal and is clearly the biggest storyline for this evening (sorry, Mets fans).
Of course, Arrieta will always be considered a legend in Chicago — hell, his counterpart in this series opener, Darvish, even said as much — for his starring role in helping lead the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 108 years back in 2016.
He left the club after the following season as a free agent to wrap up a sensational four-and-a-half year stint in Chicago — which also included a National League Cy Young award in 2015.
All of that potentially gives bettors an extra edge in trying to lay out the outlook for the returning veteran right-hander. Obviously, this is a significant event for Arrieta, who is making his first appearance at Wrigley Field since Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS.
In turn, we can use that to get a grasp on Arrieta psychologically, as you know he won’t falter in this spot. In fact, it can only help him thrive.
As it is, Arrieta already has an amazing track record at Wrigley from his tenure on the North Side. In his 56 career starts within the Friendly Confines (not including postseason), Arrieta went 30-14 to go with a terrific 2.31 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He contained opponents to a delightfully-low .182/.256/.276 slash line in those outings and surrendered only 21 homers total — or 0.5 HR/9.
This unique situation also affects the other starter in this affair, as Darvish even acknowledge the link he and Arrieta will always share. Remember, it was the Cubs who decided they wanted to move on in the relationship — and it was Darvish that was signed as the replacement.
While the former Texas Ranger ace has not nearly lived up to expectations thus far, a lot of that can be tied to his injury-plagued first campaign with the organization last year in which he was limited to only eight starts.
This season, Darvish hasn’t quite given everything yet that he’s capable of but there have been shades of it. And the hope is that his most recent outing, a dominant 11-strikeout performance against the Reds that also saw him issue zero walks, is a sign of things to come. Darvish is healthy now and I’m a believer of that happening.
This intriguing storyline comes with an intriguing total, one I’m willing to wait on to see if it ticks up another half-run. I think it’s already higher than it should be given the pitching matchup and I don’t think the weather is being factored in enough here, with temperatures not expected to exceed 50 degrees. But based on the alignment of the juice, it can potentially go higher. Make sure you’re following me on Twitter to see when I make my bet official. Play: UNDER 8.5/9
Yesterday’s Result: Mets-Marlins Under 7 (WIN)
Zylbert’s 2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*: 27-23-2, +1.4 units
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit