The MLB regular season has winded down, the playoffs are finally upon us! While the Wild Card games get sorted out, we know we have a juggernaut of a matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals starting October 6th. Get your popcorn ready folks, this one should be exciting.
This blog is intended to break down the series, in terms of how you should attack betting it. I want you to be fully aware and comfortable with the recent trends, as well as where the public is leaning. Finally, I will point out a few key bets I think you can take advantage of once the series gets underway.
First things first, I need to talk about the two teams involved.
Let me preface this by stating that on paper, this is shaping up to be an extremely even-matched series. They faced off against each other seven times this season, with the Nationals winning four games and the Cubs winning three games.
With the World Series odds for both teams ranging between 6/1 and 8/1 on virtually all sites, this one is truly up in the air. The home-field advantage the Nationals earned by having a better record during the regular season could prove to be the difference, especially in a decisive final Game 5 that would take place October 12th in Washington.
This matchup is loaded with stars on both sides. In order to be successful, typically your stars need perform well. Let’s take a look what must happen in order for each squad to come out victorious.
I know the Cubs can hit. There’s no doubt that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant will show up and have good quality at bats throughout the series. But I’m concerned about their starting pitching and their “so-called aces.” If the Cubs are going to win this series, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta simply must pitch like they are capable of.
Lester has been a shadow of himself all season long, sporting a puffy 4.46 ERA. This is after a brilliant 2.89 ERA Lester displayed during his first two years in the windy city. If Lester is unable to turn it around and provide some quality starts, it’s going to be difficult for the Cubbies to scratch this one out.
Arrieta, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to get through six innings since August 29th. In his three starts since, his 6.1 ERA is not the form manager Joe Maddon was hoping to see from his 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner.
The Cubs will be counting on Lester and Arrieta to try and slow down a loaded National lineup. If they are able to do that, the Cubs will have a chance to win this matchup and potentially get back to the World Series. If Lester and Arrieta continue to pitch like average MLB starters as they have recently, this one won’t be as competitive as it appears.
This Washington Nationals ballclub have been waiting for this series to start for a while now. With a 21-game lead in the division, The Nationals have had their eyes set on the postseason since the All-Star Break in July.
With slugger Bryce Harper back and healthy after recovering from his knee injury, the Nationals’ lineup is rounding into shape. Phenom shortstop Trea Turner has also resumed his role atop the lineup after a two-month layoff due to a fractured wrist. Infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy are as reliable as they come, so I expect the Washington hitters to show up and hit the ball hard.
While the Cubs best pitchers have been struggling recently, this is not the case for the Nationals’ deadly duo of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer was terrific this season as he has been throughout his career, and is one of the two or three leading candidates for this year’s Cy Young Award. Strasburg has been undeniably lights out lately. The former San Diego State product’s ridiculous 0.98 ERA since the All-Star break in early July is by far and away the lowest among starting pitchers in the MLB.
If Scherzer and Strasburg continue this form, it’s going to be hard for the Cubs to stop the Nationals from advancing to this year’s NLCS.
Now that I have dove into the matchup, it’s time for the juicy part-what I anticipate happening once this teams lock horns next week.
I expect the Washington Nationals to win this series. It could take all five games, but I think their overall depth will prove to be too much firepower for the defending World Series champs to overcome. The main advantage I see swaying this series towards Washington is what I alluded to above with the starting pitching. Strasburg’s emergence into an accountable ace combined with Scherzer’s masterful consistency is what a team needs to win a playoff series. With Lester and Arrieta in Chicago, I’m not even sure which version will show up to the mound that night!
The latest odds I see have the two teams deadlocked with 8/1 odds at winning the World Series and 5/2 odds at securing the National League Pennant. Being a few days out from the start of the series, I expect to see the Nationals open as a slight favorite, mostly due to the home-field advantage. The fact that the Cubs are one of “America’s favorite teams” will have the books anticipating a lot of action to come in on the Cubs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this series as close to a “pick’em” as any matchup in the playoffs.
The edge I give the Nationals’ starting pitching rotation is enough to make me want to bet on the Nationals to win this series. I know the price will be right as I won’t have to lay any heavy odds, if any at all.
I want you to also take advantage of the games that Scherzer and Strasburg take the hill. Because of their recent form and reliability, I really like the Nationals chances to win those games in which Max and Stephen are on the mound. Don’t be scared if this takes place on the road at Wrigley Field. The Nationals are the only team in the NL to have won 50 road games this season. In fact, they actually have a better record as visitors than they do at home this year.
The bottom line is with two great teams, a five-game series can go either way. One batter getting red-hot over a two-game stretch can be the difference between winning and losing. The only thing me and you can do as bettors is do our homework and make our best educated guesses as to what will play out. Of course, the Cubs starting pitching could pitch their way out of their slumps, but it’s just not something I have any faith in, nor do I want to put my money on.
The way Scherzer and Strasburg have been wheeling and dealing, I have much more confidence that they will show up. I haven’t even mentioned Gio Gonzales, who as the Nationals number three starter is also top five contender for the NL Cy Young Award.
One team has three pitchers in the top five or six for the Cy Young race. The other team has zero. You do the math. I like Washington to advance.
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