July 22 MLB Preview — Chicago Cubs (54-45) at San Francisco Giants (50-50)

(Kris Bryant photo courtesy Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Monday, July 22, Oracle Park, San Francisco, Calif., 9:45 p.m. EDT.

No one minds putting in the extra work when it gets rewarded.

After a successful yet lengthy series that helped them get back to .500, the San Francisco Giants look to get over the hump for the first time this season Monday night when they open a three-game set versus the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs upbeat after productive homestand

Chicago (54-45) takes to the road for the first time after the All-Star break following a 7-2 homestand. The Cubs were denied a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres following a 5-1 defeat Sunday, but manager Joe Maddon saw plenty to like as his team won all three series.

“I’ll sign up for it any day of the week,” Maddon told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We won seven games. That’s my takeaway. There’s still parts of the game we have to get better at, there’s no question. But I love the fight. I love the fight a lot. The energy’s been really good.

“There’s so many good intangible things going on, but we still need to clean a couple of things up, whether it’s on the bases or the at-bats in general, really forcing pitchers in the strike zone.”

The Cubs begin a nine-game road swing that includes pivotal three-game sets against their two closest pursuers in the NL Central — Milwaukee and St. Louis. Chicago is reportedly looking for a closer before the July 31 trade deadline, though what general manager Jed Hoyer and club president Theo Epstein are willing to part with remains to be seen.

Alec Mills (0-0, 4.50 ERA) gets a second turn in the rotation as the Cubs continue to wait for Cole Hamels to recover from an oblique strain. The right-hander settled down after a jittery first inning in which he allowed three runs to toss five shutout frames before the Cubs eventually recorded a 4-3, 10-inning victory over Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Mills was interestingly wild as he hit two batters in the first inning and four overall while issuing just one walk. This will be his first appearance against the Giants.

After improving to 36-18 at home following their successful homestand, the Cubs will try to improve on an 18-27 road mark that included 14 losses in the 19 contests before the All-Star break.

Anderson out to end recent slump for Giants

While it is easy to say the Giants are right back where they started with a .500 record after 100 games at 50-50, they are also right in the thick of the National League wild-card race after taking three of four games from the New York Mets.

All three of their victories in the series came in extra innings, which resulted in the four games lasting 46 innings. Mike Yastrzemski belted a walk-off homer in the 12th inning for a 3-2 victory Sunday, with six relievers combining for seven innings of two-hit relief following a credible major league debut by Conner Menez.

 

San Francisco has won 15 of 18 to move within 2 1/2 games of the second NL wild-card spot, but the surge has also made the Giants arguably the most interesting team in the majors ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

Originally thought to be sellers while staff ace Madison Bumgarner was being actively shopped, the Giants could reverse course and go all in for a playoff push in Bruce Bochy’s final season. San Francisco has not made the postseason since 2016 but is still one of the most successful teams this decade with three World Series titles on his watch.

“It’s impossible to say what the next 10 days are going to present, both in terms of what our opportunity to contend is going to be and continue to be and what opportunities the market is going to present,” team president Farhan Zaidi said before Sunday’s win.

Zaidi also gave the sense he understood what could happen in the locker room in trading Bumgarner, one of the leaders of the team who also has been dismissive of the trade rumors involving him.

“I think it’s great, because having a team of very motivated guys that want to win and clear out the distractions is important,” he added. “Obviously the guys here take their cues from him, so I thought it was great.”

Another of Bochy’s kiddie corps gets the ball for this game in Shaun Anderson (3-2, 4.87 ERA). The rookie right-hander has struggled to find traction in his last three starts, posting an 8.78 ERA in 13 1-3 innings while opponents have tagged him at a .379 clip.

Anderson was hit for five runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings Wednesday at Colorado before the Giants eventually recorded an 11-8 victory. The 24-year-old has been more comfortable pitching at home, going 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA in five starts while allowing just one homer in 26 2-3 innings.

This will be Anderson’s first time facing the Cubs.

Notable Trends

The Giants are:

  • 7-1 in their last eight games vs. right-handed starters.
  • 4-1 in their last five games vs. NL Central opponents.
  • 4-1 in Anderson’s last five home starts.

The Cubs are:

  • 1-4 in their last five road games vs. the Giants.
  • 3-8 in their last 11 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.
  • 5-13 in their last 18 road games vs. right-handed starters.

*****5-Star Pick*****

OVER 4.5 runs first 5 innings (-121)

The suggestion is to jump on this number before it clicks to five runs flat. Though Anderson is a better pitcher at home, the five-inning over has gone 3-1-1 in his five starts at Oracle Park. That is in addition to it going 2-0-1 in his last three outings.

The under narrowly hit in Mills’ start at Wrigley, but the over went 5-3-1 on Chicago’s last road swing and compiled a 6-4 mark in the Cubs’ visits to NL West parks.

****4-Star Pick****

Cubs’ Bryant to record RBI (+106)

Despite playing only one game at Oracle Park last year, Bryant has hit the ball well there over his career. He enters the contest with a .350 average (14 for 40) with three homers and nine RBIs in 10 games.

Additionally, Bryant has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 road games, batting .432 in that span with three homers and five RBIs. With Anderson’s home run per nine inning rate a scant 0.34 at home, making a play on an RBI at plus money is better than a home run.

***3-Star Picks***

Giants (Even)

The hedge is the adrenaline from this series carries the Giants in this game, helped out by the fact the Cubs are making a lengthy flight without an off day to start this road swing.

It also helps San Francisco is facing the back end of Chicago’s rotation with Mills starting, and getting Anderson pitching at home after his three subpar outings on the road might be the jolt the rookie needs to have a solid effort.

OVER 9 runs (Even)

Even with the under hitting three times in their just-completed series with the Mets, the over is still the play with the Giants. It has gone 4-0 in Anderson’s last four starts and 15-5-3 in San Francisco’s last 23 against NL Central teams.

The over is also 7-2 in Chicago’s last nine on the road against teams with sub-.500 home records. This line clicked higher to nine runs in the overnight, and with it came a huge swing in odds, going from -121 at 8.5 runs to even money at 9.

Though the under went 9-1 on Chicago’s homestand, it should also be pointed out there were nine or more runs scored on five occasions.

Giants +0.5 runs (-140)

Anderson’s recent form means taking the Giants and laying the half-run on the alternate line is out, but because they have trailed after five innings just once in their last 13 games (5-1-7), San Francisco is a solid pick getting the half-run.

Chicago’s road form also plays into this pick, as the Cubs have been ahead at the midway point just three times in their last 13 road games (3-9-1) and are 3-6-1 on the road versus NL West teams.

OVER 0.5 runs/YES to 1st inning run (-125)

Anderson has given up a first-inning run in three of his five home starts and five of 12 overall, and after Mills’ adventuresome first inning Tuesday in yielding a three-spot to Cincinnati, -125 is above-average value and worth a flyer for a first-inning run to be scored.

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