Chicago Cubs (43-24) +120, 8 at Toronto Blue Jays (34-34), 7 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of Predictem.com
The Chicago Cubs, owners of the best record in Major League Baseball as this season nears the halfway mark, head north of the border for a three-game inter-league series with the Toronto Blue Jays beginning Friday night.
Baseball bookies are listing Toronto and staring pitcher A.J. Burnett (5-6, 4.98) as -135 home chalk for Friday’s game, with a total of 8, while Chicago and Sean Gallagher (3-2, 4.42) are getting +120 as road dogs.
These two teams haven’t met during the regular season since 2003.
The Cubs have won four games in a row after sweeping three games from Atlanta this week. But the big news in WrigleyLand was the broken hand that will sideline slugging (and ham-handed) LF Alfonso Soriano for upwards of six weeks.
On the other side of this match-up, Toronto just lost two of three games at home to Seattle, and has now lost eight of its last 11.
So going into this weekend’s action, the Cubs lead the NL Central Division by 3 1/2 games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, while Toronto occupies fourth place in the AL East, 7 1/2 games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox.
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Despite being 19 games over .500, Chicago is just 14-16 on the road this year. The Cubs are also 5-8 as underdogs and 35-32 vs. the run line.
Toronto is 17-15 at home this season, 22-18 as favorites, 32-36 vs. the run line.
Over his last three starts, including a decent five-inning stint vs. the Dodgers last Friday, Gallagher has allowed six ER and 18 baserunners (hits + walks) in 17 2/3 IP. The Cubs are 4-2 in Gallagher’s starts this year, the totals 2-4.
In his short ML career, Gallagher has never started a game vs. Toronto.
Over his last three starts, including a rough outing vs. Baltimore last Saturday, Burnett has given up 12 ER and 29 BR in 18 IP. The Jays are 67 in Burnett’s starts this season, the totals 4-9.
Burnett hasn’t started a game vs. the Cubs since he was a Florida Marlin back in 2005.
Offensively speaking, the Cubs rank 2nd in the majors in team batting this year at .283, 1st in team OBP at .362, 5th in team slugging at .445, and are averaging 5.6 runs per game, 2nd-most in the majors.
Toronto ranks 15th in batting at .261, 8th in OBP at .339, 25th in slugging at .377, and is scoring 4.1 RPG.
The Chicago bullpen, over its last five games, has allowed three ER and 19 BR in 13 1/3 innings of work.
The Toronto pen, over its last five games, has given up seven ER and 22 BR in 14 innings of work.
The totals are 30-33 in Cubs games this year, 24-42 in Jays games, and 12-18 in games played at Rogers Centre, which are averaging just 7.7 total runs per this season.
Zman’s Pick: Going with the hot hand, we’re on the Cubs at an underdog price tonight. The loss of Soriano might be overstated here with these odds.