Monday’s Best Bet

Monday MLB Betting Preview (8:05 p.m. ET)
Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs seemingly made most of their time off during the All-Star break, as they came back to action over the weekend and swept the Pirates away. Those victories helped Chicago gain a bit of separation in the NL Central – lead the division by 2.5 games entering Monday's play – and they'll look to keep it going against the last place team in the division tonight.

Cincinnati had a wild weekend out in Colorado the past few days, as the Reds dropped two of three, went 1-1 SU in the final two games despite scoring 26 runs, and endured a lengthy weather delay as well. The Reds probably have too many teams to leapfrog in the division this year, but they know they are trying to build an annual contender there and the more they win now, the better off they'll be down the road.

So after the Reds took two of three from the Cubs at the end of June, and own a 6-3 SU lead in the season series with Chicago, can they grab another win as underdogs tonight? Or will the Cubs post-All-Star break dominance continue for at least one more day.

MLB Odds: Cincinnati (+128) vs Chicago (-138); Total set at 10

Cincinnati put up some great offensive numbers up over the weekend in Colorado, but because it was in Colorado it's easy to ignore what they did. In terms of developing some offensive confidence a trip to Coors Field can be great, but this Reds team has struggled with the bats for the bulk of this season, hence the 32-55 O/U record coming into today.

Yet, the bats haven't been a big concern in their six wins over the Cubs this year, as the Reds have scored at least six runs in five of those six victories, as hitting against this opponent has been their most consistent offensive results of the year overall. Only one of those victories came against tonight's Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (6-5), but it did come at Wrigley Field as well, so there is that to fall back on for the Reds tonight.

However, Hendricks is also responsible for mowing this Reds lineup down in 3-1 Cubs win in the first meeting of the year, as he went eight strong innings that day to earn the victory. It was a great performance for a guy who was going good at the time (early May), but things haven't been great for him lately. Hendricks has failed to pitch five innings in any of his last three starts, all on the road, and Chicago has dropped all three of them. His 7.15 ERA over that span is just too ugly for a guy pitching on a first place team, and like the rest of his teammates, he's hoping the time away from the game to rest and recharge translates into better results on the diamond now.

Based on what the market has shown so far before noon today, there is significant belief that that indeed will be the case for Hendricks and the Cubs tonight. Chicago actually opened up in the -120 range before reaching as high as -150 at some places as there has been significant support for the Cubs and that's important to make note of. The 'over' has also been bumped up to 10 after opening at 9.5, as maybe we do see those Reds bats stay a little hot in a game that looks a lot like their Sunday contest in Colorado; a 10-9 defeat.

Of those two moves, it's easier to side with the Cubs on the ML from a trust/belief perspective as they are the better team overall, Hendricks is more than capable of turning this around quickly, and their own bats are coming off a two-day stretch over the weekend where they put up 18 total runs. However, even with the number at a flat '10' right now, it's the 'over' that's the better betting position to take and here's why.

One, the wind should be blowing out of Wrigley tonight at a decent clip (12+ mph), and going from Coors Field to a windy Wrigley should do little to cool off Cincinnati's bats. Yes, the time away from the diamond/teammates should help Hendricks regroup, but he was so reliant on the strikeout during his early season success and they just haven't been there in most of his recent starts. Pitching to contact at a gusty Wrigley Field is not ideal in terms of keeping opponents off the scoreboard, and with the added confidence the Reds hitters have after the weekend, they should be able to get to Hendricks for a crooked number or two.

At the same time, Chicago's bats won't let up against a guy in Luis Castillo who they just beat a few weeks ago, and someone who enters the 2nd half of the season as a strong regression candidate overall. Castillo comes into tonight's game with a 2.29 ERA - 3rd in MLB – and has largely been pitching over his head for the most part this year. I'm sure fading him with the expectation he'll regress is part of the reasoning behind that Cubs ML support as well tonight, and this is just a different approach to that take. He hasn't pitched at Wrigley Field this year, but he had three starts there a season ago, and two of them were ugly where he didn't go longer than four innings. Those two contests finished with a combined score of at least 11 runs both times, and that's what we should see tonight.

Finally, that great 'under' run the Reds have been on all year that was referenced at the top, should see some regression to the mean as well during the second half of the campaign. I do expect this team to be one of the better 'over' bets in MLB for the 2nd half, and it never hurts to start that part of the season with road trips to Colorado and Chicago to kickstart that path.

Best Bet: Over 10 runs