The Lede: Can Cubs Hang on with Contreras on the DL?

Arturo Pardavila III (flickr) CC License

Don’t have time to read through 1,000 words, but need some informed betting tips? Here’s a quick rundown on today’s biggest sports story (as adjudged by me) and how it impacts the way you should bet.

Willson Contreras Heads to DL while Cardinals Continue Surge

As if losing a second consecutive game to the lowly Giants wasn’t enough, the Cubs were dealt an even bigger blow when Willson Contreras strained his hamstring running to first base. It’s unclear how long the Cubs catcher will be out, but the club is believed to be fearing the worst.

Since the All-Star break, Contreras is batting .311 with ten HRs and 29 RBIs (all team-highs). Suggesting the 25-year-old was carrying the Cubs may not do his efforts justice.

Without Contreras, the NL Central-leading Cubs will turn to Alex Avila, who was acquired prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. Avila has only had nine at-bats with his new club, but did go yard in one of them.

Expecting Avila to produce at a Contreras level is unreasonable. However, if expecting some of the other Cubs to step up is not. If there was ever a time for Kyle Schwarber to really break out, it’s now.

Chicago only holds a 1.5-game lead over both the Brewers and Cardinals in the Central. St. Louis has been playing much better ball since the All-Star break, and has now won seven of its last ten. The Cards have a handful of players who are red-hot at the plate in the second-half, including Jose Martinez (.343), Tommy Pham (.333), and Yadier Molina (.325). Add in a pitching staff that has the fourth-best ERA in the Majors since the break (3.06), and you’ve got a very dangerous team.

Takeaway: If Contreras misses extended time (which looks likely), I don’t trust the rest of the Cubs offense to pick up the slack. But that may not be needed. The Cubs have the fifth-ranked pitching staff since the All-Star break, and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are starting to pick it up. As long as Jose Quintana rebounds from his recent struggles (nine earned-runs, four homers in his last 11 innings), the rotation can carry this team if/when the offense regresses.

Career numbers suggest the Cardinals’ fiery batters will sizzle out soon. But I’m also not ready to count them out of the postseason. In reality, the Central is a weak division and St. Louis has a pretty favorable second-half schedule. The Cards aren’t relegated to the division race, either. The Wild Card is still in play. Diamondbacks have zero experience handling the pressures involved in a Wild Card race and a 6.5-game lead isn’t that much with nearly 50 games to play. (Same can be said of the Rockies, who are just a half-game ahead of Arizona.) Take the value while it’s still there on the Cardinals making the postseason.