Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs Preview and Pick – Cueto vs. Zambrano

Cincinnati Reds (43-48) Johnny Cueto +155, 8.5 O/U at Chicago Cubs (54-36) Carlos Zambrano -175, 8.5 O/U, Wrigley Field, 8:05 PM EST, Wednesday
by Badger of

The Chicago Cubs will be looking to duplicate the good vibes and pennant-chasing excitement in Wrigley Field Wednesday night when the Cubbies host the Cincinnati Reds in game two of a three-game set in the Windy City.

Not only did the Cubs win game one of the series last night over the Reds, 7-3, behind all-star pitcher Ryan Dempsters 10th win of the season, but the additional buzz in Wrigley was over the six-player trade the Cubs made with the Oakland As early on Tuesday to land pitcher Rich Harden.

Add into the mix the fact that the Cubbies will be trying for a third win in a row, and that ace Carlos Zambrano (9-3, 2.96) will trot out to the bump in game two and you can only imagine the level of excitement that will be buzzing around the ballyard tonight.

The Reds will counter with young righty Johnny Cueto (7-8, 4.63), as they try to stop the momentum and prevent the Cubbies from adding to their NL-best 54-36 record.

The early line from baseball oddsmakers listed the Cubs as -175 favorites on the moneyline and the Reds as +155 underdogs, but a few offshore sportsbooks have already moved it up to -185 for everyones beloved Cubbies. The over/under total opened at 8.5.

Zambrano will be making his second start since coming off the disabled list. His first start of the DL last Friday was sharp, as he went six shutout-innings allowing just six baserunners (4 hits, 2 walks) in the Cubs 2-1 win over St. Louis.

And dont think for a second that Zambrano and the home team arent fully aware of his recent history of owning the Reds, as he is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his last three starts versus Cincinnati. Oh yeah, and he is also 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA at Wrigley this season, so expect a few extra fist-pumps from Zambrano tonight.

Since his 10-strikeout game to start the season, Reds starter Cueto has come back down to earth in a hurry. The Reds are 6-4 in his last 10 starts though, including two wins in a row, as Cueto has allowed just six earned runs in his last four outings (25 IP). Cueto also beat the Cubs back on May 5th, giving up just three runs on six hits in a 5-3 victory.

The Cubs offense, especially catcher Geovany Soto, is happy to be back in the friendly confines of Wrigley where they are 34-10 this season. Soto hit his 16th jack of the year yesterday and drove in three runs to continue on the tear at the plate he is on (.370, 4HR, 12 RBI in last four games).

The Reds offense, the same one that swept the Washington Nationals for a four-game winning streak coming into the series opener, was held to just two hits by Dempster yesterday. One player who could spark the Reds tonight is Ken Griffey Jr., as The Kid is .378 (14- for-37) with two homers and five doubles lifetime versus Zambrano.

One betting trend to watch is the over. The Cubs have gone over in 10 of their last 14 game overall. The Reds also score on Wednesday games, with the over coming in at 10-4-1 in their last 15 played on Hump Day. Plus, Wrigley Field is a hitters park with the 5th best OPS (at .791) in all of MLB. So expect some runs to be scored, even with Zambrano and Cueto on the bump.

Badgers Pick: I really like the Cubs and Zambrano here to continue to ride the positive emotion going through Wrigley-ville right now, but the juice is too high for me at -175 to -185. If your bankroll can afford it, take the Cubs. But the smart money is on the over tonight, so take the over of 8.5.