No team in baseball needed a win last night more than the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had lost back-to-back games and allowed at least 13 runs in each one of them. They had been in freefall mode in the NL Central Division. One game won’t cure it all, but it will at least stop the bleeding for a time.
The bleeding may begin again today, as the Cubs draw another tough starter in Zach Eflin of the Phillies. Adbert Alzolay will take the mound for the Cubs as they are lined as a small favorite at MyBookie Sportsbook of -115 with a total of 7.5 at Wrigley Field.
The Phillies jumped all over Zach Davies and Jake Arrieta in the first two games of the series, but were stymied by Alec Mills and the Cubs bullpen on Wednesday. It was a rare off night for Zack Wheeler and that seemed to set the tone for the game. Wheeler gave up seven runs over 4.2 innings, though only four were earned, as the Phillies just didn’t play a crisp game.
The Phillies now sit at 41-43 in the NL East. They have the worst run differential in the division, but the Mets are the only team with a winning record in the division, so they’re right there with everybody else at present.
Despite what we saw in the first two games of the series, this Phillies offense is below average. The Phillies have a .309 wOBA, which ranks 16th, but their 94 wRC+ shows that they are 6% below league average when park factors and the league scoring environment are put into the equation. That is still better than where the Cubs sit now, but the Phillies do leave something to be desired on offense.
Zach Eflin has a 4.13 ERA, but he also has a 3.68 FIP in his 16 starts. He certainly deserves a better fate than being 3-6 on the season, but the Phillies haven’t given him a lot of run support this year and the Philadelphia bullpen is among the worst in baseball.
That means it could be on Eflin to help his own cause tonight with a good outing. He has allowed four or more runs in six of his 16 starts and all of them have been on the road. A stiff breeze blowing in from left could be helpful to both Eflin and Alzolay in this game.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Cubs were tied with the Brewers for the top spot in the NL Central Division. They sit 8.5 games back of Milwaukee at present. The Cubs were tied for the division lead on June 24. A Cubs freefall with 11 straight losses coincided with a huge winning streak for the Brewers and led to bad things in the standings.
Losses aside, the Cubs could be in for a tumultuous month of July. The Trade Deadline is fast-approaching and Chicago has some impending free agents that would be of interest to a lot of teams around the league. Speculation kicked up yesterday when Kris Bryant was removed from the game, but it turned out that he had his hand inadvertently stepped on and that was why he left.
That means that Bryant is questionable tonight for a Cubs offense that ranks 18th in wOBA and has a 92 wRC+. The Cubs were actually a really good offense for the first six weeks of the season, but that unit has been one of the worst in baseball over the last two months. The Cubs hit a lot of homers, but also strike out a lot, don’t walk enough, and only have a .226 batting average as a team.
Adbert Alzolay makes the start today with a 4.48 ERA and a 4.99 FIP. The 26-year-old right-hnader has made 14 starts and has nice peripherals with his strikeout and walk rates, plus a .232 BABIP against, but he has allowed 16 home runs in his 72.1 innings. That aforementioned breeze blowing in could be a big help to him in this start.
The Cubs do have a bullpen advantage, but their bullpen has really struggled lately. Chicago’s pen had the highest LOB% in baseball for a time, but is now dropping down the ranks in that category, which has coincided with this recent run of losses.
Phillies vs. Cubs Free Pick
A bit of a breeze blowing in and some cooler temperatures didn’t help yesterday’s total at all, as the game flew over the number. With two lesser pitchers on the mound today, we see a total priced around the same number. With two bad bullpens and two starts susceptible to some hard contact and homers, over 7.5 is the play tonight.
Pick: Over 7.5