MLB Houston at Chicago Cubs Series Betting (leave up all weekend)


The teams of Major League Baseball are back to the diamond this weekend after the three-day all-star break, and all of them are hoping to get off to a good start and set the tone for the season's second half. Among the big series' going on this weekend is that between the Astros and Cubs, as Chicago hopes to creep closer and closer to the top of the Central Division. Here's an in-depth look at that series. For more on all the baseball action, be sure to stay on top of the Betting Trends and Team Statistics pages all weekend long.

The Chicago Cubs are positioned to make a run at the Milwaukee Brewers in the Central Division in the second half of the 2007 season. Chicago trails Milwaukee by 4.5 games and opens a 10-game homestand they hope brings them even closer in the race. Lou Pinella's club has turned around since June 3, posting a 21-12 record. The offense is still inconsistent, but the bullpen is stabilizing, which has prevented a number of losses that occurred in the first part of the season. "The fact that we finished the first half strong, the fact that our team is playing with more confidence," Cubs manager Piniella said. "Things seem to have come together."

It has not been a good season for Houston mired in fifth place in the NL Central. The various issues this Astros team looks like a grocery list. The fact is at its most basic they don't score enough runs and they give up too many. Houston is 17th in runs scored on the season and 25th in major league baseball in runs allowed. Not surprisingly Houston has been a bad bet, losing -14.9 units to this point and nothing will be easier commencing a crucial 10-game road trip starting in the Windy City.

The Astros can least fall back on history to make a play in the second half of the season. In 2004, the Astros went 36-10 in their final 46 games and won the NL wild card on the final day of the regular season. They overcome a 15-30 start with an outstanding second half in 2005 and wound up in the World Series playing the White Sox. Last year, they won nine games in a row in late September to come within a game of the division champion and World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. "You've got to believe that," first baseman Lance Berkman said. "As a player, you can't ever think you're out until it becomes statistically impossible to do it. As a player, you've got to hold out hope 'Yes, we can make a run and get back in this thing."

Jason Jennings will have the first opportunity to shine for the Astros. This may be asking a lot since they are just 2-8 in his starts. Jennings ERA isn't terrible at 4.07; he just tends to make bad pitches at inopportune times. Houston is 15-24 against other division opponents. Carlos Zambrano was on a major roll after horrible start until Pittsburgh finally hung a loss on him. The emotional pitcher is 5-2 since June 2, with an earned run average under two. has the Cubs as a -175 favorite in the opening contest, which seems inflated until you realize Houston is 8-24 against the money line vs. an NL starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.50 to 4.20 over the last two seasons.
Game 1 StatFox Edge: Cubs

Manager Phil Garner would have preferred to start Roy Oswalt in the first game of the series, but his All-Star appearance dictated he be moved back a day. This year has not been the usual brilliance from Oswalt, particularly on the road. He is 2-4 with a hard to fathom 5.68 ERA, dropping -5.1 units. Scouts have noted he often this season has caught too much of the plate both inside and outside, which has hurt him. The North Siders will counter with veteran Ted Lilly who has pitched better at home than on the road, unfortunately had suffered from lack of run support early in the campaign. The crafty left-hander has won three straight starts and has split a pair of games as an underdog. One run games are considered a variable that changes from year to year and thus far Lilly and the Cubs have had no luck in this area with 0-6 mark. Houston starts this series with 15-28 road record (-11.2 units) and is 9-16 in day games. Oswalt normally is effective against the Cubs and should prevail.

Game 2 StatFox Edge: Astros

Wandy Rodriguez is working on 16 scoreless innings coming to Wrigley Field. His brilliance is shown by allowing just seven hits and threw a complete game shutout against the Mets the last time out. One minor problem, both starts were at home, the road has been less than kind to Rodriguez. He is 1-5 with silly 6.60 ERA away from Minute Maid Park. Jason Marquis will draw the series finale assignment at Waveland Avenue for Chicago, where he and his teammates are 7-2 this season. Marquis has brought home backers +4.3 units at Wrigley. An easy to follow aspect of his game is walks. If Marquis walks three or more batters in a game the Cubs are 4-6, if his control is sharp, they are 7-1.

Game 3 StatFox Edge: Cubs

Chicago is far from a great club; however in the NL Central, average is good enough. The Cubs have a number of useful components to build a line-up from. Chicago needs to be aggressive at the plate, yet patient, since the real key to beating Houston is getting into bullpen that has 6.28 ERA on the road. Both teams are in need of quick start out of the gate and home field has meant little between these division rival with Houston holding slight 8-7 edge the last three years at Wrigley Field. Take the Cubs in three competitive ballgames. series odds: Houston +150, Chicago -190

StatFox Edge series pick: Cubs

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