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ST LOUIS CARDINALS (53-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (44-36)
The St. Louis Cardinals head to Wrigley Field to continue their rivalry with the Chicago Cubs as they begin a four-game series on Monday night.
The Cardinals have not slowed down with their winning despite taking on a few tough injuries and come into this divisional battle with victories in 10 of their last 15 games as they hold a healthy six-game lead in the division. They did struggle somewhat earlier last week, though, losing four straight contests against both the White Sox and Padres while scoring a meager six runs before finishing off San Diego with two victories and a split in the series at home. The final two games of the set were won with pitching as St. Louis gave up just two runs and capped it off with a nice 3-1 effort on Sunday in which they allowed three hits. OF Thomas Pham (.273) hit his first career homer as the leadoff man and will look to give his team a nice power and speed combo moving forward. The Cubs remain in the hunt for the postseason and they have continued their stellar campaign with wins in five of their last six outings. In that time they have dominated their opposition, outscoring them 19-5 with three shutouts against both the Mets and Marlins. Over the weekend, they took 2-of-3 from Miami and gained the edge in the rubber-match, a 2-0 victory in which they were a mere 1-of-8 with RISP but did just enough to back starter Kyle Hendricks start (7.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 6 K). Phenom 23-year-old, 3B Kris Bryant (.279), brings a six-game hitting streak into this contest and aided his team with a huge effort (2 HR, 6 RBI) on Saturday against the Marlins. A few seasoned veterans will battle it out on Monday as RHP John Lackey (6-5, 3.30 ERA) of the Cardinals goes head-to-head with LHP Jon Lester (4-6, 3.74 ERA) of the host Chicago group. St. Louis has been able to get it done on the road to the tune of a 22-17 record as they take on these Cubbies who are 22-16 when playing in the Windy City during 2015. These NL Central clubs have taken each other on 47 times since the start of the 2013 season with the Cardinals holding a 29-18 edge overall, but are an even 10-10 when playing on the road. It has been all St. Louis again this year as they are 7-2 against Chicago, but have yet to play at Wrigley Field. Trends show that Lackeys teams have gone 20-8 (.714) in road games during the month of July in his career while the Cubs are a solid 59-42 (.584) after batting .240 or worse over a 15 game span in the past two years. Plenty of regulars continue to be out for the Cardinals with OFs Matt Holliday (Quad), Jon Jay (Wrist) and 1B Matt Adams (Quad) remaining on the DL while Chicago is without OF Jorge Soler (Ankle), 2B Tommy La Stella (Ribs) and 3B Mike Olt (Wrist).
If you ignore the first two seasons that Lackey spent in Boston, when he posted ERAs of 4.40 and 6.41, the righty has put together another eight seasons since 2005 in which his ERA has been less than 3.90. He has never been a big strikeout guy with a career mark of 7.1 K/9 and has been effective in 2015 once again despite mowing down just 6.7 batters per nine innings. His control has been phenomenal (2.3 BB/9) and he has greatly diminished his homers allowed (0.69 HR/9) after giving up more than a long ball per nine innings in each of the last three years. Since May 29th (7 starts), the Cardinals are 5-2 when Lackey is on the mound and in six of those outings he has gone at least seven frames while giving up three or fewer earned runs. In his time against the Cubs (5 starts), he is 2-1 (4-1 team record) with a 2.34 ERA (1.27 WHIP) and has dominated them this year with three runs on 13 hits to go along with a 15:4 K/BB ratio in two starts (14.2 IP). OF Chris Coughlan (8-for-14, 2 RBI) has had no issues getting to Lackey when matching up, but 3B Kris Bryant, OF Dexter Fowler and 1B Anthony Rizzo have gone a cumulative 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts against the 36-year-old. The Cards possess some of the best relievers in the game and as a result the pen has gone 15-9 with a 2.16 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and is 33-for-38 (87percent) in save chances. Trevor Rosenthal (0.70 ERA, 24 saves) has just one of the five blown saves and has a 13:3 K/BB ratio with nine hits and a run allowed over his last 10 appearances (10.1 IP).
Lester was a huge addition to this young Cubs ballclub in the offseason and although his ERA is approaching 4.00, he has been able to give the team a legitimate veteran presence. Chicago is just 3-5 in his last eight outings and he has not won a game since May 16th despite having five appearances with at least six innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed. His strikeouts (8.7 K/9) and walks (2.6 BB/9) have remained consistent from other years, but he is giving up his most homers (0.93 HR/9) since 2012 as 12.2percent of the oppositions flyballs are leaving the park. Hes had some great starts when meeting with the Cardinals, going 3-1 (4-1 team record) with a 1.85 ERA (1.15 WHIP) against them and earned a victory when he last saw them in May, going seven innings with four runs allowed (1 ER) on seven hits and whiffed six batters. OF Jayson Heyward has had a ton of success off of Lester, going 8-for-15 with four doubles and a homer against him in his career as SS Jhonny Peralta (8-for-31) has also shown some power with three round-trippers. Nobody on the offense for St. Louis has really struggled in their time against the lefty, but 1B Mark Reynolds (8-for-32, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 4 RBI) has not really excelled either. Chicago has amassed a solid bullpen as they are 19-13 with a 2.88 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and have successfully saved 20-of-30 (67percent) contests. Hector Rondon (2.10 ERA, 12 saves) has recently been used earlier in games as veteran Jason Motte (2.84 ERA, 4 saves) begins to get some opportunities in the ninth inning.
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MLB Series Betting- Boston at Philadelphia2010-05-21
It is still a week before Memorial Day holiday weekend but a matchup of the Red Sox and Phillies invokes thoughts of postseason baseball. These two squads have become synonymous when one thinks about baseball in October with their recent history of success and World Series titles. Because of proximity, Major League Baseball has made this an annual meeting and while it wonít carry the media weight of the New York subway series, the baseball itself is arguably better, given the talent of the clubs. For the 3-game set, Sportsbook.com lists Philadelphia as a -220 favorite.
Philadelphia (25-15, +2.6 units) is again perched atop the NL East, leading the league in offense at 5.5 runs per game. If the Phillies have one weakness, itís the American League. Forget losing to the Yankees in the Fall Classic, Philadelphia has issues in the regular season. The Phils are 10-23 the last two seasons when matched against the AL and have lost five consecutive series to Boston and are 4-14 taking on the Red Sox.
Boston (22-20, -4) is not in panic mode (at least not the front office), however they do have serious concerns. The Red Sox are in fourth place in the highly competitive AL East and are 8.5 games back of front-running Tampa Bay already. Boston has had their share of injuries to players like Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, being out of the lineup.
Nevertheless, the BoSox are averaging 5.2 runs per game, which is third in the AL and sixth on the majors, however upon closer inspection they have been held to three runs or less 17 times. Compare that to Philadelphia who has 13 such occurrences and the Rays with 12. Using the other two division leaders as a benchmark, that is four or five potential swing games that could have been victories due to offensive ineffectiveness.
Boston has been one of the best interleague teams with a 38-20 record the last three seasons and sends John Lackey (4-2, 4.86 ERA) to the mound for Game 1. Lackeyís been hit hard, allowing 11 runs in 13 innings his last two starts vs. Detroit and Toronto. Heíll look to get back on track and Lackey is 19-5 UNDER in interleague action (teamís record) with average runs scored against him of 2.8 per contest.
Sportsbook.com has Philadelphia as -141 money line favorites with total Ov9 and gives the ball to Cole Hamels (4-2, 4.29). Hamels has won his previous two starts and looks to make it three in a row for the first time in three years.
The Phillies will look to change ways, since they are 1-8 at home when the American League comes calling, yet are 12-1 at Citizens Bank Park after allowing four runs or less five straight games over the last three seasons.
Game 1 Edge: Boston
This series will also feature hitters that are swinging the bat. The Sox J.D. Drew is batting .333 in his last 24 contests after slow start and has 17 RBIís in previous 19 games. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia owns a .356 average in interleague play, which is the best all-time among players with at least 150 at-bats.
Placido Polanco has been a great fit for Philadelphia, especially at home, where he is batting .349 on the season. With him on base so frequently this sets up numerous RBI chances for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. This is important since the Phillies are 20-6 when they score first and 5-9 when they donít.
The middle game pitching matchup has Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-1, 7.89) facing Kyle Kendrick (2-1, 5.24). Dice-K has made four starts and in three of them has given up the one big inning which has been his demise. He needs to keep his level of concentration up like in the past, where he and his teammates are 8-2 as visitors against clubs with winning records.
Kendrick was on his game is last start, eight innings and two runs permitted against Pittsburgh. The right-hander has 2.57 ERA in his last three starts and his club is 5-1 when heís on the mound at home.
Game 2 Edge: Philadelphia
The final encounter of the series looks like a complete mismatch. Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (0-2, 5.31) will step into the starting rotation for Josh Beckett who is on the DL with lower back strain. Wakefield hasn't won a game since July 8, 2009, but donít blame him entirely, as he left a contest on four separate occasions with the lead, only to see his Sox teammates cough it up. Oddly, Boston is 2-9 in day games this season.
Philly looks for the doctor to make everything better. Roy ďDocĒ Halladay (6-2, 1.64) hasnít given up a home run in over 32 innings, but is coming off a complete game in which he made 132 pitches. The Phillies are 9-6 under natural light, however this might not be as easy as it looks since Halladay is 14-14 with a 4.28 ERA vs. Boston in his career.
This is the TBS Sunday afternoon contest at 1:25 Eastern.
Game 3 Edge: Philadelphia
Weíll give a somewhat shaky vote for Philadelphia to end series drought over the Red Sox, however, be aware you will need to lay -220 to collect, as Sportsbook.comís series odds show: Boston +170, Philadelphia -220