Aug. 4 MLB Preview — Milwaukee Brewers (57-55) at Chicago Cubs (59-51)

(Javy Baez photo courtesy Stan Szeto/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: Sunday, Aug. 4, Wrigley Field, Chicago, Ill., 2:20 p.m. EDT.

After needing 14 starts to record his first victory at Wrigley Field since joining the Cubs last year, Yu Darvish looks for back-to-back wins at the Friendly Confines on Sunday when Chicago tries to sweep a critical three-game series from its division rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers.

Houser looks to build on solid start for Brewers

Adrian Houser (4-4, 3.99 ERA) found something that worked during his three appearances out of the bullpen because he is getting a second turn in the rotation after a solid effort last time out.

The right-hander limited Oakland to one run and three hits in five innings Tuesday, leaving with the lead before Milwaukee eventually lost 3-2 in 10 innings. Hauser struck out six — one off his season-high — and fired 44 of his 69 pitches for strikes.

“It was his best start as a starter for us,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He got us 15 outs, which is what I was thinking, and something to build on for sure in his next start.”

Houser had gone 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA in his previous four starts, giving up four homers and walking eight in 17 innings. The righty has made three relief appearances against the Cubs this season, with Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in Chicago’s 4-1 home victory May 12 the only blemish in 4 2-3 innings of work.

The Brewers (57-55) have given back the ground they gained on Chicago and more after taking two of three from the Cubs at home last weekend. They have lost three straight and five of six after Saturday’s 4-1 defeat, going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranding seven runners while dropping three games behind the Cubs in the NL Central.

Christian Yelich, who had a career-high 19-game hitting streak snapped in Friday’s defeat, is 3 for 19 with seven strikeouts in five games at Wrigley Field this season.

Darvish looks to rebound from tough-luck loss for Cubs

It had become a running gag that Darvish (3-5, 4.46) — who signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs (59-51) — was unable to win at Wrigley. The right-hander was limited to eight starts overall last year due to injury and had struggled to find traction in Chicago early this season.

The last two starts at the Friendly Confines, however, flipped that script as Darvish struck out 15 while scattering four hits in 12 shutout innings. In his last outing there July 17, he allowed as many hits as batters hit — two — in six innings of a 5-2 win over Cincinnati to end his schneid at home.

Darvish did not win either of his starts on the road following that victory but deserved a better fate Tuesday in St. Louis, where the sixth-inning tiebreaking solo homer by Paul Goldschmidt consigned him to a 2-1 defeat. The other run scored on a wild pitch, but Darvish did strike out nine in six innings without a walk.

“I tried to throw a slider for a strike, but I held it too (long),” Darvish said of his second wild pitch, taking blame for the loss. “That’s why I yanked it.”

This will be his first start of the season against the Brewers after stifling them in a pair of starts in 2018. He struck out 17 in 12 innings, yielding two runs and five hits without getting a decision in either of them.

The Cubs will be sweating out an MRI on the hamstring of catcher Wilson Contreras after he hurt himself running out a fly ball in the seventh. It would not have affected this game much since Victor Catarini is Darvish’s personal catcher, but Contreras is third on the team in RBIs (57) and fifth in homers (19).

Notable Trends

The Cubs are:

  • 21-7 in their last 28 home games vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 35-16 in their last 51 home games.
  • 49-21 in their last 70 home games vs. right-handed starters.

The Brewers are:

  • 4-10 in their last 14 games vs. NL Central opponents.
  • 5-12 in their last 17 games vs. right-handed starters.
  • 2-8 in their last 10 road games vs. right-handed starters.

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

Cubs 3-way ML first 5 innings (-105)

The 3-way money line is offering a slightly better return than laying the half-run at -110, and the Cubs are 5-0-2 at the midway point in their last seven gams versus the Cubs and 3-0-1 in the last four at Wrigley Field. Chicago is also 6-1-1 after five innings in Darvish’s last eight outings at the Friendly Confines while Milwaukee is 2-5-2 in its last nine on the road.

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

UNDER 8.5 runs (-105)

While the number did land on the lower end of expectations, Darvish’s form and track record versus Milwaukee make the under a worthy play. The under has been trending solidly with both teams and Darvish of late, including a 10-1 mark in Chicago’s last 11 games versus NL Central rivals and a 6-2-1 record in Darvish’s last nine starts.

The under improved to 16-5 in the last 21 meetings between the teams at Wrigley and 13-3 in Chicago’s last 16 games there with Saturday’s result. The under is on a five-game run with the Brewers and 5-1 in their last six against division foes.

UNDER 5 runs first 5 innings (-125)

The five-inning under is 7-4 in the season series, including 4-1 at Wrigley. It has also hit in four of the last five games for both teams heading into this contest. Darvish’s form — the under has delivered in three of his last four starts — also provides a confidence bump, as does the fact Milwaukee has scored one or no runs in the first five innings in eight of the 11 matchups.

***3-Star Picks***

Cubs -1.5 runs (+135)

Darvish’s recent home form is one reason to like the Cubs, but the Brewers using a spot starter in Houser in arguably their biggest game of the season does not inspire much confidence in Milwaukee avoiding the sweep. The Cubs have also won nine of 11 at home since the All-Star break, and that trend should continue.

Cubs’ Baez to hit HR (+250)

The 2018 NL MVP runner-up has hammered Brewers pitching at home this year, going 10 for 23 (.435) with six extra-base hits in five games. Baez has homered once already in this series, and with the Cubs needing pop in this game without Contreras, the All-Star shortstop is worth a play in a big game.

Cubs OVER 1 run first 3 innings (-136)

A convergence of trends makes this a solid pick on the conservative side. The Brewers have yielded at least one run in all nine of their road games since the All-Star break, including more than one on three occasions. Chicago has plated at least one run in the opening three innings of 10 consecutive home games, going over that mark six times.

Houser is prone to early struggles, giving up six first-inning runs in seven starts, and the Cubs could find success early to make this a quick win.

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