LA Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs Preview and Pick (Clayton Kershaw vs. Ryan Demptster)

Los Angeles Dodgers (25-19) Clayton Kershaw, at Chicago Cubs
(21-24) Ryan Dempster, Wrigley Field, Chicago, Ill., 8:05 PM EST,
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

by Badger of

Betting Line: Dodgers -105/Cubs -105
Total: 7.5

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Two big market teams will try and continue their recent climb out of
their early-season hole when the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs start a three-game series in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field Tuesday night.

The opener will have the Dodgers young left-hander Clayton Kershaw dueling against Cubs vet Ryan Dempster on the bump.

Los Angeles comes to the Windy City as the hottest team in baseball,
winning 12 of their last 14 games (16-5 in May) to get back to within
one-game of the first-place San Diego Padres in the National League
West after an 8-14 start in April.

But the Cubs are also playing better of late, winning six of their
late eight including two out of three over the Texas Rangers in
interleague play last weekend to climb closer to .500 for the season
and within five games of the Cardinals and Reds in the NL Central.

Oddsmakers are expecting a tight matchup in the opener, with both
teams listed as -105 favorites on the moneyline at the sportsbooks
with dimelines. There are a few books that list the hometown Cubbies
as slight underdogs (-106 to -104 at 5Dimes, but a majority of the books are listing them at even odds.

At the time of press the over/under total has not yet been released,
as oddsmakers are likely waiting to see how much wind there is at
Wrigley today. However, the forecast calls for muggy conditions and
wind gusts at less than 10 mph, so a number in the 9s is likely.

Tonights pitching matchup can best be described as two guys going in
opposite directions, with Kershaw being the one that seems to be
gaining steam.

Kershaw had perhaps his worst outing as a Dodger on May 4th versus
the Brewers (1.1 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 R), but the lefty has done a
complete 180-degree return to form with three great outings since
that dud. Hes a perfect 3-0 in those outings with only 12 hits and
seven walks in 22 innings (0.85 WHIP), throwing an 8-inning shutout
and two 7-inning one-run outings.

Kershaw has never faced the Cubs, and has never pitched in Wrigley Field either.

Dempster has fallen hard since his breakout year in 2008. This year
the Cubs are just 2-7 in his nine starts, including an 0-5 mark his
last five turns through the rotation. However, four of those five
losses were by one run as his run support has been the main culprit
(3.9 AF, 3.6 AA).

Maybe facing the Dodgers is what Dempster needs to get off the schnid, since he is 6-3 in 11 lifetime starts against the boys from
L.A. and he has very good splits including a 2.52 ERA, a .300 on-base
allowed and a sub-.700 OPS at .675. He went 2-0 last year, winning a
3-1 decision over Chad Billingsley in Los Angeles and a 7-0 victory
over Eric Stults at Wrigley in late May.

Dempster is also a notoriously better pitcher at home in Wrigley,
with a winning percentage at home (.596) much higher than he has on
the road (.383).

The Cubs split the four games they had head-to-head with LA at
Wrigley last season 2-2, but they also only won three of five at home
in 2008, so Wrigley might not be such of a home field advantage in
this series.

The under has a solid betting trend going, cashing in seven of the
last 10 overall and in three of the four games in Chicago last season.

Badgers Pick: I like the Dodgers to win tonight.