Home-road splits are rarely as clear cut as they are for the Chicago Cubs this season. The leaders of the National League Central are 41-19 at home this year while putting together a 23-36 mark on the road. They’ll look to improve on that record when they face the host Philadelphia Phillies in the second of a three-game series on Wednesday night.
Chicago has lost three of its last four — all on the road — to see its lead in the NL Central shrink to one game over the St. Louis Cardinals and 2.5 games over the Milwaukee Brewers. Philadelphia is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since July, as they’ve fallen nine games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East. The Phillies are two games behind St. Louis for the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
The moneyline for this contest has the Chicago Cubs +105 and the Philadelphia Phillies -115. The over/under has been set at 9.
The Cubs will have Cole Hamels on the mound to face the team he led to the 2008 World Series title. Hamels is 6-3 on the season with a 3.09 ERA, though he was out for over a month with a strained oblique. Hamels has made two starts since returning, taking a no-decision in each one. His last start was not a good one, as he lasted just three innings, allowing four earned runs and eight hits to Cincinnati.
The biggest problem for Chicago this season offensively has been consistency. Looking at their last six games, they’ve gone 3-3, averaging 9.3 runs in the wins and 1.6 runs in the losses. There are plenty of offensive weapons in the Cubs’ lineup, starting with shortstop Javier Baez, who leads the team with 28 home runs and 81 RBI. Third baseman Kris Bryant is always a threat to get hot and go on a tear, and he leads the team with a .292 batting average to go along with 23 home runs and 58 RBI.
Looking For Old Magic
The Phillies had a shakeup recently, firing hitting coach John Mallee and bringing back former manager Charlie Manuel. The 75-year-old was the manager of the team’s last World Series winner and is hoping to get things turned around in time for a spot in the postseason. Philadelphia struck out 15 times in the series opener and is 12th in the National League in batting average at .245. The person most people look at when the Phillies’ offense struggles is Bryce Harper, in his first year of a huge new contract with Philadelphia. Harper is hitting .248 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI, and if he could get hot, the rest of the team would follow.
Philadelphia will send Aaron Nola to the mound for Wednesday’s game. Nola is 10-3 with a 3.67 ERA but has allowed at least three earned runs in three of his last five starts. Nola had won four straight decisions before taking a loss in his last start when he went five innings and allowed three earned runs and seven hits to San Francisco.
Phillies Earn Another Win
Philadelphia got a shot in the arm with the change in hitting coaches, and it should show against the team’s former ace. Hamels hasn’t looked the same since coming back from his injury, and the Cubs struggle mightily on the road. I’m taking Philadelphia -115 to win on Wednesday.