Cubs vs Brewers Picks, Odds Today | MLB Prediction for Wednesday, July 5

Cubs vs Brewers Picks, Odds Today | MLB Prediction for Wednesday, July 5 article feature image

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images. Pictured: Adrian Houser.

Cubs vs. Brewers Odds

Wednesday, July 5
8:10 p.m. ET
Cubs Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
 -114 / -105
Brewers Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-114 / -105
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.
Check out our MLB Betting Hub for more previews from today's slate.

The Cubs and Brewers split the first two games of their divisional series in wild fashion. Milwaukee erased a 6-0 deficit in the first game on Monday to win 8-6 after thrashing the Chicago bullpen. The Brewers then erased a 6-2 deficit in the eighth with two runs in each of the last two innings on Tuesday to force extra innings.

Base-running errors cost Milwaukee a golden chance to win the game in the 10th, and the Cubs held on to win in the 11th. The Cubs remain seven games out of first place and six behind the Brewers, which makes each head-to-head matchup that much more important.

Chicago is throwing its 2023 ace and All-Star Justin Steele against back-end Brewers starter Adrian Houser, hence the pricing of the Cubs as a solid road favorite for Wednesday's matchup. The market — and first five innings especially — moved hard toward the Cubs overnight with Steele moving from a -158 first five favorite to a roughly -170 to -175 consensus road favorite.

Even though Steele is clearly the superior pitcher, the market has moved to the point where I no longer see value in backing Steele in the first five innings. He consistently beats projections because of his weak contact quality allowed, but there's a different way I'm attacking this market now on Wednesday.

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Chicago Cubs

A quick look at the underlying pitching metrics won't have you enamored with the stuff of Cubs lefty Justin Steele. Eno Sarris' model has Steele with a 100 Stuff+ overall, which is exactly league average for all pitchers and barely above average for a starter. Steele does have an excellent breaking ball — his slider has a 129 Stuff+ per the model. The model doesn't love his fastball, but it has unique movement that has befuddled major league hitters since he came into the league.

Fun moment on a broadcast when you can spot some seam effects (direction of the ball’s spin changing in flight) in a strikeout replay. 👀

— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) July 2, 2023

Steele throws just 92 mph with the fastball, but the pitch has allowed a .289 wOBA in 2023 and that's even better than the 2022 numbers. His fastball has elements of seam-shifted wake that make it more deceptive to the opposing hitter and enable it to move in unusual ways. The other major improvement for Steele in 2023 has been his command. While he had walk rates of 10% in 2021 and 9% in 2022, he's cut down the walks and lowered his xERA in 2023 to 3.01.

There's real skepticism about his ability to replicate and continue the improved command, but so long as he's pitching with this level of command, he's going to be difficult to barrel up and won't give free passes. Steele isn't ever going to be an elite strikeout pitcher either, which does lower his floor a bit when the command isn't good. Steele has now allowed 730 batted balls in MLB though, and he's never allowed a barrel rate above 5.7%.

Combine that with league-average strikeout rates and well above-average walk rates and you have an excellent pitcher. The market is catching on to Steele now, as the overnight first five markets have moved at least 15 cents toward him in each of the last three starts.

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Milwaukee Brewers

There's a sizable sample on Adrian Houser as an MLB pitcher now, so he isn't fooling the market with his pricing on a game-to-game basis. Houser has just a 15% strikeout rate, so he's at the mercy of BABIP luck on a start-to-start basis. When he's able to generate grounders at defenders, he's extremely effective. If the grounders are finding holes or he's struggling with command, then the wheels can fall off rather quickly.

Houser has had his good starts — he threw seven innings of two run ball against the Mets just last week. He's also gotten blown up, as when allowing 11 hits and six runs against Toronto in 4.2 innings earlier this year.

Whatever you think of Houser, he has a strong track record of competent back-end rotation level starting pitching. The Cubs' patience makes this a tough matchup for him on paper because of his past walk issues, but Houser has trimmed the walk rate considerably in 2023. Since he's sitting at just 6.9% walk rate, his xERA is down to 4.16.

The stuff models have never liked Houser, explaining his lack of strikeouts or whiffs, but the Location+ in the model results from 2023 is the best number he's had in years.

I am in line with the consensus rest-of-season projections for Houser to have a 4.5-4.6 ERA.

Cubs vs. Brewers Betting Pick

This starting pitching matchup puts both offenses in their worse offensive split. The Cubs are considerably better against left-handed pitching for the season, where they rank seventh in wRC+ in the league with a 109 wRC+. The same team has a 95 wRC+ against righties, which is 19th.

Meanwhile, only the Rockies have been worse against left-handed pitching than the Brewers this season. Milwaukee is 29th with an 81 wRC+. It's improved somewhat with some lineup tweaks, but Milwaukee's 27.9% strikeout rate against southpaws is alarming.

Both bullpens have seen a ton of usage in the last two days, but Steele's ability to go deeper into games should help save Chicago's bullpen. Cooler temperatures in Milwaukee also have the park factor playing below normal July levels on Wednesday. The total is half a run too high at 8.5, and I'd bet under 8.5 at -120 or better.

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