Stuckey and Lo Duca: Our Favorite Betting Angles for NL Wild-Card Game
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyle Freeland and Jon Lester
NL wild card betting odds: Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs
- Rockies Moneyline: +125 (Kyle Freeland)
- Cubs Moneyline: -135 (Jon Lester)
- Over/Under: 7.5 (+100/-120)
- First pitch: 8:05 p.m. ET
- Channel: ESPN
>> All odds as of 12 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time MLB odds and track your bets
Paul Lo Duca:
The Rockies and Cubs both lost yesterday but in different ways. Colorado was absolutely shut down by Walker Buehler while Chicago was tied, 1-1, going into the eighth inning before Milwaukee got to the Cubs’ bullpen.
The bullpen is clearly Chicago’s Achilles heel right now, which means Lester will need to sparkle against the Rockies. There’s only one problem: Colorado’s lineup is built to smash lefties. The Rockies rank in the top three in wOBA (.324), home runs (74) and OPS (.798) against southpaws this season.
Lester has good surface-level numbers this season, but his underlying numbers suggest the 34-year-old has run hot in 2018. His xFIP (4.43) is a full run higher than his ERA (3.32). At some point, Lester’s luck will run out — and if he doesn’t get the bounces against this lineup, watch out.
Like Lester, Freeland also has fantastic back-of-the-baseball-card numbers. The 2014 first-round pick owns a 2.85 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 202.1 innings this year. Under the hood, though, there are a few red flags. Freeland averages only 7.70 strikeouts per 9 innings and issues 3.11 BB/9. Additionally, his 4.22 xFIP and .285 BABIP suggest he will regress.
The Cubs are a middle-of-the-road team against lefties, but Freeland isn’t going to overpower you with stuff.
I have a slight lean toward the Rockies at this price but will wait to see if the odds move. If it gets to +130, I’ll likely play Colorado — but my favorite play is on the total.
At first glance, this looks like an under play. Two aces on the mound, winds blowing in at Wrigley Field and it’s a playoff game. I’m zagging.
Sure, these two pitchers have been great this season, but there’s cause for concern for both starters:
- The Rockies eat southpaws for breakfast.
- Freeland is on short rest.
- Both are due for some regression.
Then there’s the Cubs bullpen. The Rockies game plan will be to make Lester work to get Joe Maddon out of the dugout. I like their chances to do just that, which will turn this into a back-and-forth classic.
With the under sitting at -125 at some shops, it may pay off to wait to see if you can get a 7. Still, I think Over 7.5 is a smart play.
Bet: Over 7.5
I couldn’t agree with Lo Duca more.
While I think Freeland will consistently outperform his underlying metrics because of his impeccable Tom Glavine-esque command, he has certainly benefited from good fortune in a year where he set Colorado’s single-season Coors Field ERA record. His astronomical 82.8% strand rate in 2018 is simply not sustainable over the long run — especially with a K/9 rate that’s under eight.
We also have no idea what to expect from Freeland in his first playoff appearance — on the road in his first career start on short rest. I assume the southpaw will have a very short leash, which means the elite Cubs lineup could see Colorado’s very vulnerable middle relief.
On the other side, Paul mentioned Colorado’s prowess against left-handed pitching. I expect the Rockies to hit Lester, who simply doesn’t have the same arsenal he once had. Nolan Arenado leads the National League with a silly 1.199 OPS vs. southpaws, while Trevor Story isn’t too far behind at 1.069.
And once the crafty veteran exits, Maddon doesn’t have many reliable options. Injuries to closer Brandon Morrow and setup man Pedro Strop have left the Cubs with a very depleted pen that is trending in the wrong direction.
I’m not one to normally bet an elimination game over between two solid defensive squads at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing in, but I think the over holds value here.
In regards to the side, the Cubs do have a few distinct advantages:
- Travel effect: While the Cubs have been playing at home since Sep. 24, the Rockies will be playing their third game in three days in three different time zones. That’s not ideal.
- Postseason experience: Not only have the Cubs recently won a World Series in Game 7 on the road, they will have a significant experience advantage on the mound. While Freeland will make his first postseason appearance, Lester owns an impressive 2.55 ERA in 148.0 career playoff innings.
- Wind effect: The wind blowing in should benefit Lester slightly more, as the Cubs lefty is more vulnerable to the long ball at this point in his career. (Lester has a 1.19 HR/9 in 2018 compared to Freeland’s 0.76 despite playing home games at Coors.)
- Rest advantage: Since 1997, teams throwing a starter on full rest in the MLB postseason are 40-20 against starters on short rest.
I don’t trust Chicago’s pen enough to lay -135, but I’m confident enough in both offenses to back the Over 7.5. And as someone holding an 85-1 Rockies World Series future, I’ll certainly be wearing my Colorado cap.
Bet: Over 7.5