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The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is off to a relatively slow start by his lofty standards. Will he be able to get it going against the homer-prone Luis Castillo and the Reds on Friday?
Welcome back to the LazyBets Free MLB picks column for Friday, June 22nd. The Red Sox cruised to a 9-2 victory on Thursday behind an excellent performance by Rick Porcello, making us winners of 7 of our last 10 and 57-39 overall. We’re giving these out for free, folks, but we can’t place the bets for you. Hopefully you’ve been along for the ride, it’s been a fun year so far.
For Friday’s pick, we’re going to take a look at the second game of a four game series between the Cubs and Reds. Cincinnati took the first game on Thursday, pushing them to 7-3 in their last 10, just like us in our last 10 picks in this column. Only one of us is going to make it to 8-3 though, and we like our chances way more than the sportsbooks do. Let’s get into it.
Chicago Cubs (Quintana) at Cincinnati Reds (Castillo)
The Cubs’ Jose Quintana looks like he’s finally rounding back into the player the North Siders hoped they were getting when they gave away their top two prospects (and two others) in a midseason trade last year. As we’ve noted in previouscolumns, Quintana was one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball from 2013 to 2016, never posting an ERA above 3.51. He was much more average in his first 20 starts with the Cubs though, putting up a 4.07 ERA and likely made the casual Cubs fan scratch their head and wonder if the Quintana they had seen dominate for the White Sox was the same guy that they were seeing in a Cubs uniform.
However, two things give us confidence that Quintana will start pitching like his old self soon. First, he’s already showing signs - his last 4 starts have been solid, posting a 2.38 ERA over that span. Secondly, the track record speaks for itself - we’re not going to toss away a four year stretch of quality pitching in favor of 20 mediocre starts, especially for a 29 year-old who should be squarely in the middle of his prime. If Quintana can get his walk rate under control - and the projections believe he should - he should be back to his old self soon.
Reds starter Luis Castillo is probably due for some more success as the year goes on as well, but when you’re sitting at an atrocious 5.77 ERA, there’s really nowhere to go but up. Castillo is getting murdered by the long ball this season, giving up the third highest homer rate of any qualified pitcher. While some of that is bad luck, a big part of it is his fault - he’s allowing the 20th highest hard hit ball rate, and hard hit balls often leave the park. Even if he gets the homers under control (and hopefully he doesn’t, at least for one more day), he’s an average starting pitcher at best.
Offensively, the Cubs have the edge - they rank 7th in wRC+, right about where they were projected in the preseason. They’ve got a chance to climb even higher if Anthony Rizzo can start hitting like he has for the majority of his career - his 2018 hasn’t gotten off to a roaring start (.247/.348/.426). Just like we predicted lefty Andrew Benintendi to do some damage in Thursday’s pick (which he delivered on), we’re predicting that the lefty Rizzo goes yard against the Reds on Friday. As for the Reds offense, they’re right at league average, which is probably higher than they should be given the talent in the lineup. Joey Votto is a future Hall of Famer, and Eugenio Suarez is a solid hitter, but Scooter Gennett… let’s just say that we don’t expect him to be in the top 20 in offensive WAR (as he is now) at season’s end. Even if he does, the Cubs lineup is still far more dangerous top to bottom.
With Jose Quintana rounding into form and the homer-prone Luis Castillo on the mound for the Reds, we’re pretty surprised to see such favorable odds being offered on the Cubbies over at BetOnline. The moneyline of -125 is a small price to pay when considering the starting pitcher mismatch and the huge edge that Chicago has on offense, and that’s why we’re making the Cubs our free MLB pick of the day.
If our MLB picks don’t quite scratch your itch, be sure to check out our daily World Cup picks over on our soccer betting page, and be sure to check our homepage for more fun picks and parlays from all over the sporting world.
Good luck out there everyone, enjoy your Friday, and let’s get a win!
Bet the Cubs -125
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