Cubs vs Cardinals Odds, Picks, Predictions | MLB Preview for London Series, June 24
Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images. Pictured: The Cubs work out at London Stadium.
- The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals face off in MLB action Saturday in the London Series.
- The Cubs are slight favorites in a matchup between two NL Central rivals.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of Cubs vs. Cardinals, including how to bet it.
Cubs vs. Cardinals Odds
-115 / -105
-115 / -105
On Saturday, Major League Baseball will return to London for the first time since 2019 when the Red Sox and Yankees slugged 10 home runs and scored 50 runs across two games at London Stadium.
The defending NL Central winners, the St. Louis Cardinals (31-44), sit fifth in the division — nine games off the pace set by the streaking Cincinnati Reds — and are hoping to avoid seller status at next month's trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs (36-38) are staying competitive in a wide-open divisional race and can wind up as buyers within a few weeks if they remain in striking distance of first place.
Below, I'll provide my projections and favorite betting angles for Saturday's London matinee by analyzing both teams and starting pitchers.
The Cubs will send out underrated southpaw Justin Steele (7-2, 2.71 ERA, 3.13 xERA or expected ERA) against a collection of Cardinals hitters who have hit him reasonably well in a limited sample (5 BB, 6 K, .827 OPS in 51 plate appearances).
On the surface, Steele seems like a two-pitch guy (four-seam fastball or slider >90% of the time), but he takes multiple viewings to appreciate fully. His strikeout rate isn't outstanding, but he has good command, allows a healthy number of ground balls (50.4% career), and rarely serves up home runs (0.83 HR/9) due to an extremely low barrel rate (4.9%).
His slider is elite (128 Stuff+), but pitching models seem to have trouble grasping the quality of Steele's fastball (87 Stuff+):
Fun segment with Joe Girardi (yes, that Joe!) on what makes Justin Steele's four-seamer so distinct.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) June 17, 2023
Even though Steele throws two pitches most of the time, he consistently alters the shape and speed of those offerings to tinker with the timing of opposing hitters — and they have difficulty squaring him up.
The two bullpens compare favorably on paper and in my model. The Cardinals rank ninth in xFIP (3.97) and eighth in K-BB% (15.7%); Chicago ranks 11th in both categories (4.04 and 15.3%). Pitching models think the Cardinals have the livelier arms (108 vs. 104 Stuff+). I don't see a significant difference between the two teams, but I would also rate both bullpens closer to league average than as top ten units.
The Cubs have significant advantages in athleticism, ranking as the vastly superior defensive team; 12th in Defensive Runs Saved (+8), while the Cardinals rank 28th (-24). Per Outs Above Average, the two teams rank sixth (+10) and 21st (-7). And they have a comparable differential on the base paths; the Cubs rank seventh, and the Cardinals are 23rd.
Offensively, Chicago is in its inferior split, performing better against lefties (113 wRC+, 6th) than righties (95 wRC+, 17th) this season. But the Cubs also have their full lineup together for the first time in a while, which makes Chicago an intriguing divisional play (currently +375 at Caesars) going forward.
Switch-hitting Ian Happ (11-for-32, 3 2B, 4 HR, 2 BB, 5 K) has the best numbers against Wainwright and should get the good platoon split even if the Cardinals bring in a lefty; Happ is a logical bet for Over 1.5 total bases (to -120).
PECOTA and FanGraphs ZIPS put the Cubs' divisional chances around 20% (+400 implied odds) heading into the weekend. If you like the Cubs, now might be the time to pull the trigger.
Adam Wainwright has seen his fastball velocity dip to career-worst levels (86.8 mph), his strikeout rate has tanked (from 21% in 2021 to 17.8% last season and 11.9% this year), and his expected metrics have spiked (xERA up from 3.84 to 4.53 and now 6.11).
He'll turn 42 years old before the end of the season, and it wasn't hard to imagine father time catching up with him anyway but perhaps the pitch clock may limit the longevity of these older pitchers — as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have struggled this season too.
Wainwright has been functional the first time through the batting order (72 PA, 4BB, 12 K, .761 OPS allowed), but he falls apart the second time through (72 PA, 4 BB, 2 K, 1.050 OPS allowed), and even if he survives to turn over the lineup a third time things have been shaky (57 PA, 5 BB, 10 K, .855 OPS allowed).
Having a fully rested bullpen, including Steven Matz (4.90 xERA) as a long man, is necessary behind Wainwright. Still, the Cubs' regular lineup is predominantly right-handed, and as I mentioned above, they project better against lefties than righties.
This season, the Cardinals' offensive splits are relatively surprising, ranking 13th against lefties (105 wRC+) and ninth against righties (108 wRC+). The Cardinals torched lefties last season (131 wRC+, 1st), ranking third in 2021, and added Willson Contreras and Jordan Walker to their lineup alongside two of the best southpaw smashers ever: Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
St. Louis still projects better against lefties than righties in my model, and I think it's meaningful that they have controlled the strike zone against Steele — even in a limited sample.
Tommy Edman typically leads off for the Cardinals against lefties, and he's also gotten on base five times in nine tries against Steele. Edman may get five or six plate appearances and is an easy Over 1.5 bases bet at a pick'em price.
The Cardinals have the better offensive splits in this matchup. I would give their projected lineup a 117 wRC+ against lefties, and I have the Cubs at a 97 wRC+ against the right-handed Wainwright.
However, Steele gives the Cubs a big starting pitching advantage on top of their athleticism edges on defense and the base paths.
If this game is competitive, I expect the Cardinals to be aggressive with a fully rested bullpen. Wainwright under 16.5 outs caught my eye, especially with those times through the order splits.
If the Cardinals can keep the game tight until Steele exits, they should be able to turn the matchup into a coin flip.
Cubs vs. Cardinals Betting Pick
The total for the first game in the 2019 London series opened at 11 and closed at 11.5 (final score 17-13). The total for the second game went up as high as 16.5 but closed at 15 (final score 12-8).
The adjustment was reminiscent of the Mexico City Series from April, where the initial game closed at 15.5 (final score 16-11) before the second game closed at 19.5 (final score 6-4).
The fences in London are slightly different than in 2019. The center field wall is seven feet deeper, and the power alleys are five feet deeper. However, the massive foul territory is also significantly reduced, leading to fewer foul outs to aid pitchers.
The baseballs this year (2,582 home runs; 1.14 per game) are also much different from those used during the record-setting 2019 season (6,776 home runs; 1.39 per game). Still, there is no guarantee that the league didn't send a juiced batch across the pond, as was suspected for those Yankees-Red Sox games and the Mexico City series earlier this year.
I set the Cubs as 56.9% favorites (-132 implied odds) and would back Chicago at -122 (54.9%) or better. And given the discrepancy between the starters and the relievers, I'm higher on the Cubs' chances in the first five innings (F5). My F5 price target is -139 (projected -151).
I set the total at 14.26, implying a park factor about 60% higher than the major league average run-scoring environment. For context, the initial total (11.5) for the first Red Sox-Yankees game in 2019 was about 25% higher than the league average — on par with Coors Field. For the second game, the expected park factor was closer to +80% (16.5).
Compared to that projection, I would bet Over 13.5 to -119, or Over 14 at even money; otherwise, wait for a live Over at 13 or better.
Additionally, I'm going to place three-player prop bets for this matchup.
- Over 13.5 (-115, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -119 or 14, +100)
- Adam Wainwright, Under 16.5 Outs Recorded (-130, 0.25u) at DraftKings (bet to 15.5, -110)
- Ian Happ, Over 1.5 Total Bases (-115, 0.25u) at Draftkings (bet to -120)
- Tommy Edman, Over 1.5 Total Bases (-110, 0.25u) at DraftKings (bet to -115)
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