Sunday Night Baseball will feature a matchup of the NL Central’s best in the Chicago Cubs (26-17) versus what has surprisingly been one of the NL East’s worst in the Washington Nationals (19-26). The Cubs had to run the gauntlet in the first two, facing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. While they were able to get to Mad Max on Friday, Strasburg was able to keep them in check Saturday, going eight innings, allowing four hits, two runs (one earned) and striking out seven.
After splitting the first two games, Sunday will be the rubber match, with Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 2.86 ERA) taking the mound for the Cubs opposite of the Nationals’ Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 6.00 ERA). First pitch for this one is scheduled for 7:08 pm ET.
The moneyline for this matchup features the Chicago Cubs at -123 with the Washington Nationals at +113. The over/under on runs scored is 10.
By The Numbers
Offensively, the Cubs have been one of the most dynamic teams in baseball. They are currently averaging 5.48 runs per game, which is good for third in the majors. Even more impressively, they rank first in scoring on the road, averaging 6.57 runs per game. The Nationals, on the other hand, come in at 21st in the majors, averaging 4.45 runs per game (only 4.14 at home).
On the pitching side, it is once again the Cubs who hold a major advantage. On the season, the Cubs’ pitching staff has an earned run average of 3.52, which is good for fifth in the majors. For full disclosure, though, they do struggle a bit more on the road (4.72 ERA). The Nationals come in all the way down at 24th with a 4.96 ERA. Their ERA is even worse at home, where it is 5.17.
Cubs Try To Keep Rolling
The Chicago Cubs have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, particularly in the last month. After getting off to a slow start they have turned the jets on, and now sit atop the NL Central, 1.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. A large part of that has been pitching, and no one has been hotter as of late than Kyle Hendricks.
In his last five starts, Hendricks has a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings. On the season, Hendricks is 3-4 in eight starts with a 2.86 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and opponents are hitting .253 against him. In 50.1 innings, he has allowed 49 hits, 16 earned runs and has struck out 41 versus just nine walks. Nothing might be more indicative of his recent success than his last outing. Against the Reds, Hendricks had as many offensive hits (three) as he did hits given up in the 3-1 Cubs’ win.
Offensively, Javier Baez has swung a hot bat this year. He is hitting .324/.364/.604 with 11 home runs, 30 runs batted in and 34 runs scored. Recently, though, it has been Kris Bryant who has been the Cubs’ best hitter. In the last week, Bryant is hitting .407/.429/.889 with four home runs, seven runs batted in and eight runs scored in that time. Bryant has also hit well in his career against Hellickson, batting .333 with a home run.
Nationals Trying To Figure It Out
For a team that was expected to compete in the NL East this year, the Nationals have looked anything but. Yes, it was expected that the loss of Bryce Harper would hurt, but with a rotation led by Scherzer, Strasburg, and the newly acquired Patrick Corbin, expectations were that pitching would lead the way. Unfortunately for Nats fans, that has not been the case and Sunday’s starter, Jeremy Hellickson, has not exactly been solid thus far this season.
In seven starts, Hellickson is 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and is allowing opponents to hit a whopping .289 against him. In 36 innings, he has allowed 43 hits, 24 earned runs, eight home runs and has struck out 29 while walking 17. He will have to pitch much better to contain a loaded Cubs lineup.
On the offensive side, the Nationals have welcomed back a couple of injured stars that they are hoping will drastically help their fortunes. Trea Turner and Juan Soto are back in the lineup, and those two have All-Star potential every year, so it should help to deepen what has been a struggling offense.
Over the last week, the hottest Nationals hitter has been third baseman Anthony Rendon. He is hitting .391/.462/.696 in that span with a home run, four runs batted in and seven runs scored. They will need all hands on deck to figure out how to get to Hendricks.
Cubs Take The Series In Primetime
I just don’t have a whole lot that I like for the Nationals in this one. The Cubs have the better starter in this one in Hendricks, a pitcher who has been near untouchable lately (three of his last five starts he has allowed 0 earned runs). Additionally, the Cubs lineup has been clicking at the dish lately, despite only scoring two on Saturday. Also, the Cubs bullpen, which was atrocious to start the season, has been tolerable as of late. All in all, I just see this stacking up in the Cubs favor, and for my money, I am taking Chicago at -123.