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Cubs Rocket Up the NL Central Odds After Sweeping Cardinals

Cubs Kris Bryant working out before a game
Kris Bryant is coming off of a down year after only being able to play in 102 games in 2018. Photo by Arturo Pardavila III (Flickr)
  • Following an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, the Cubs stumbled to a 3-8 start in 2019
  • But steady pitching and a balanced offense have vaulted the Cubs into a tight three-way race for top spot in the NL Central
  • The experience in a now-healthy Chicago lineup gives the Cubs the edge over the Cardinals and Brewers

The Chicago Cubs saw a season-high seven-game win streak come to close on Monday with a disappointing 6-5 loss to the visiting Miami Marlins. But the team is still trending in the right direction, overcoming a shaky start with a 14-4 run that has lifted them into a tight three-way race for the top of the NL Central standings.

The Cubs join the archrival St. Louis Cardinals as +160 co-favorites to capture this season’s divisional title in MLB futures.

Odds to Win NL Central

Team Odds
Chicago Cubs +160
St. Louis Cardinals +160
Milwaukee Brewers +205
Pittsburgh Pirates +2600
Cincinnati Reds +4000

*Odds taken on 05/07/19

Cubs Followed Up Early Postseason Exit with Slow Start in 2019

Even though the Cubs won 95 games last year, the fact that they didn’t win the division and then lost the Wild Card game to the Rockies resulted in 2018 being deemed a disappointment.

The disappointment would continue early in 2019. The Cubs opened the season leading the way as +210 favorites to claim their third NL Central title in four years, but a 3-8 start would result in the club getting quickly bounced from the top of the odds, tumbling to a somewhat distant +320 bet by April 22, well back of both the Cardinals and Brewers.

The club surrendered just under seven runs per game during their first 11 outings, and were limited to three or fewer runs on eight occasions over the first 24 games of the season.

However, a dramatic improvement in team pitching and steady results on home turf have sparked a turnaround on the North Side.

Steady Pitching, Welcome Contributions at the Plate Sparking Cubs Turnaround

Even with Cubs pitchers allowing 16 runs over their past three outings, capped by a ninth-inning meltdown in Monday night’s loss to the Marlins, the Chicago staff remains among the MLB leaders in several categories.

Cubs hurlers have amassed a respectable team ERA of 3.90, with starters earning 13 of the club’s first 19 wins. The relief corps has surrendered an average of just 4.31 runs per game.

The steady improvement in the Cubs’ team-pitching stats has been particularly apparent when they play on home turf at Wrigley Field.

Through their first 15 home dates of the season, the Cubs have surrendered fewer than 3.1 runs per game, while Chicago hitters have provided plenty of run support, racking up five or more runs on eight occasions, and over six runs per game in their past seven.

The steady improvement in the Cubs’ team-pitching stats has been particularly apparent when they play on home turf at Wrigley Field.

Welcome contributions at the plate have come from a number of Cubs sluggers who were hampered by injury in 2018. Limited to just 102 games last season, Kris Bryant has found his groove of late following a quiet start, recording hits in nine of his past 11 game appearances, and connecting on four home runs over the past nine games.

Plagued by a hamstring injury for much of last year’s stretch run, Jason Heyward has emerged as a steady presence at the plate early on, batting .299 with an OBP of .412, while going long on five occasion.

Meanwhile,Javier Baez continues to lead the Cubs’ hit parade with a .314 average to go along with 11 home runs and 11 doubles.

NL Central Emerging as Most Competitive Division in Baseball

The NL Central is fulfilling the early promise of being the most competitive division in baseball this season. Entering Tuesday’s action, just a single game separates the Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers in the battle for the top of the division.

The Cardinals were among the most consistent clubs in baseball this season before getting swept by the Cubs at Wrigley last weekend. The Brewers have battled with consistency at times over the first six weeks of the season, but remain one of the best home teams in baseball, and are also among MLB’s top hitting clubs, with reigning MVP Christian Yelich leading the way with a .342 average, 15 home runs, and 36 RBI.

However, it remains to be seen whether the Brewers staff has what it takes to lead the club back to the top of division. Brewers hurlers sit near the bottom of MLB team stats with a team ERA of 4.74, while the club’s relievers also rank among the worst in ERA, losses in relief.

While the tight three-way race is likely to continue all season, it is tough to overlook the Cubs’ recent winning track record. And with last season’s injury woes behind them, and contributions from up and down the lineup, the Cubs must still be considered the team to beat in the NL Central.

Pick: Chicago Cubs to win NL Central (+160)

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