Cubs’ Lester Takes Mound Saturday Night Against Card’s Jack Flaherty

(Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

The Cubs opened their series versus the Cardinals in victorious fashion on Friday afternoon. Cole Hamels was electric and Javier Baez was all the offense Chicago needed to get by Miles Mikolas and the Cards. Here’s a sports betting recap of the Friday’s game and a look ahead to tonight’s matchup.

The Cubs did not need much run support for starting pitcher Cole Hamels on Friday afternoon. In fact, Javier Baez all but ended the game in the bottom of the first inning.

Baez took an 0-2 offering from Miles Mikolas to the right-center field seats to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. The two runs were enough as the Cubs were victorious 3-1 in a low-scoring affair. The four runs stayed way below the 7.5 implied run line with the Cubs cashing -120 ML tickets with the victory.

The Cubs will look to win the series on Saturday night — sending Jon Lester to the hill to square off with Jack Flaherty. At the time of this writing, DraftKings Sportsbook considers the game a near pick’em, with the Cubs -108 to win again.

Stat of the Night

Cole Hamels was incredible on Friday afternoon. Hamels completed 8 innings of shut-out baseball — striking out ten batters and only allowing four baserunners in the process. Cole Hamels has dominated the Cardinals since becoming a Cub — allowing only one earned run in 22 innings.

Pitching Primer

Jon Lester toes the rubber for the Chicago Cubs tonight — hoping to be the second consecutive lefty to stymy the right-handed heavy Cardinals. The Cardinals will likely oppose Lester with at least six right-handed hitters.

Lester’s 3.32 ERA is a bit misleading — his peripheral numbers indicate a bit of good fortune throughout his starts this year. That said, over his last four starts, Lester’s luck waned with 17 earned runs allowed over 21 innings. Hard contact is an issue for Lester — his 27% Hard-Soft contact ratio mean hitters are squaring up the baseball.

Jack Flaherty takes the bump for the away team with surface statistics much more indicative of skill than those of his opponent. Flaherty’s 3.76 ERA is a tick above his 3.72 xFIP — xFIP being a measure of a pitcher’s skills independent of fielding.

Flaherty possesses the ability to miss bats — boasting a 27.6% strikeout rate this season. This combined with his induction of soft-contact at a 22% rate has kept damage at a minimum — Flaherty has seven straight starts yielding three earned runs or less. The Cubs projected lineup will work Flaherty’s pitch count with their 10.8 K% versus right-handed pitching — but have plenty of hitters who swing and miss.

Prop Shop: Strikeouts on DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings Sportsbook boasts pretty interesting strikeout props and odds for tonight’s duel between Lester and Flaherty.

The Cardinals projected lineup via RotoGrinders only contains one player with a strikeout rate north of 25% versus lefties this season — Marcell Ozuna. Otherwise, six of the nine hitters boast walk rates north of 10% against southpaws. DraftKings posts a 4.5 O/U prop for Lester, with the under offering a +130 price. Lean: Under 4.5 strikeouts (+130 on DraftKings Sportsbook)

On the other hand, Flaherty’s 27.5% strikeout rate makes DraftKings set the number at 6.5 with a +115 price on the over. Collectively, the Cubs strike out at a 22.8% clip versus right-handed pitchers this season. Last night’s hero — Javier Baez — “leads” the way with a 31.2 K% against righties this season. Lean: Over 6.5 strikeouts (+115 on DraftKings Sportsbook)

The Pick

At the time of this writing, the Cubs are -108 to win tonight’s game while the Cardinals are -106 on DraftKings Sportsbook. This appears to be a line built on a strong, young pitcher facing a patient and potent offense on the road. Will Flaherty keep the Cubs at bay enough for the Cardinals to get to Lester? Will the Cubs run up Flaherty’s pitch count and get into the Cardinals bullpen early?

The wind is a major factor in Wrigley Field and as such, there is no implied run total at the time of this writing. The wind is currently forecasted to blow 10-11 MPH in from center field — a number that possesses a dramatic effect on power and fly balls. Yesterday, similar weather brought a 7.5 O/U which stayed under. If the implied total ends up being 7 or 7.5, I like the under depending on the price. (Conditional) Lean: Under 7 or 7.5 runs if offered

With respect to the outcome of the game, give me Jack Flaherty in a tight scoring affair. Flaherty will be greatly assisted by the wind — keeping most of his fly balls at bay. He should also be able to ring up a bunch of Cubs. Lean: Cardinals ML -106 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

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