MLB Odds & Picks for Cubs vs. Diamondbacks: Can Arizona Top Chicago in Series Opener?

MLB Odds & Picks for Cubs vs. Diamondbacks: Can Arizona Top Chicago in Series Opener? article feature image

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images. Pictured: Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zach Davies.

  • The Arizona Diamondbacks welcome the Chicago Cubs to town for Friday's NL showdown.
  • The Diamondbacks are slight -125 moneyline favorites, which is a good enough number for handicapper Kenny Ducey.
  • Check out below why he thinks Arizona will have the upper hand.

Cubs vs. Diamondbacks Odds

Cubs Odds+105
Diamondbacks Odds-125
Over/Under9 (-105 / -115)
Time9:40 p.m. ET
TVApple TV+
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

The Diamondbacks and Cubs, who play seven times before the month of May is finished, start things off with a three-game set in Arizona this weekend.

Arizona enters Friday's matchup — and series for that matter — as the better team at the moment, but does that mean a victory here is assured?

Let's take a closer look at this matchup.

Chicago Cubs

Taking two of three in San Diego really isn't impossible these days, but it sure felt like a monumental achievement for the Cubs. Entering that series, they had lost their last five games and 14 of 17. The hot start they had to the season felt like a distant memory, and runs were incredibly hard to come by.

Over the last two weeks, the Cubs have been the very worst team in baseball at producing offense. They rank dead last with a 62 wRC+ and number one in strikeout rate, going down in 29.3% of plate appearances. That's pretty alarming, considering most bottom-tier offenses are at least making contact with the ball, they're just not making very good contact. Chicago is tops in strikeout rate and just 17th in barrel rate.

The Cubs will trot out Drew Smyly for this start, and he's looked a little bit better this season. Across five starts, he's allowed just eight earned runs in 23.2 innings to check in with a 3.01 ERA. He's allowed five homers in his last three starts, though, and has pitched to a 4.25 xERA. He's also seen his strikeout rate dip to a very low 17.3 percent.

Smyly may be off to a good start on the surface, but those Smyly outings should be right around the corner.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

Don't look now, but the Diamondbacks are red-hot. They haven't lost a series since dropping the rubber match against the Mets on April 24 and enter Friday the winners of nine games in their last 12 tries.

While that sounds like a tear on paper, Arizona has had the benefit of playing some pretty bad teams like the Marlins and Rockies, though it did take two of three from the Dodgers and split with the Cardinals.

I bring up the competition, because it's not as if Arizona is punishing opponents. It has had modest success at the plate with a 111 wRC+ in the last two weeks, which is ninth in baseball.

The Diamondbacks aren't really making a lot of quality contact, ranking around the middle of the bigs in barrel rate over that same period in time, and they're striking out in almost 25% of plate appearances. The key on offense for Arizona has been its 10.7% walk rate coupled with some timely hitting and good pitching.

That's where this game's starter comes in. He, as Dua Lipa once said, "Did a full 180," is Zach Davies. A year ago, the analytics community was fuming for most of the season as the journeyman continued to get outs despite a horrid hard-hit rate north of 40 percent.

While luck eventually caught up with him, Davies is a new man in 2022. His sinker has managed to be more effective, sporting a lower batting average and expected batting average against. The biggest metric, though, would be his hard-hit rate, which has dropped from 43.3% to 28.4 percent.

As a sinker-baller, you must master the art of getting ground balls which are easy to field. Davies knows this, but this is the first time his ground ball rate has climbed over 50% in five years. It's only been six starts, but it sure seems like he's a better pitcher.

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Cubs-Diamondbacks Pick

I'm not expecting the Diamondbacks to blow the Cubs away, but I do feel they have the stronger of the offenses and a pitcher who's not trending downward like Smyly.

There's a lot to like about the start Davies has made to the season, so I see no potential issues facing a Chicago team struggling to make contact with the ball.

That said, I'll back Arizona as a short home favorite.

Pick: Arizona ML (-125)

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