The Chicago Cubs will look to take one step closer to winning the NL Central when they begin a four-game series with the Washington Nationals on Thursday. The Cubs took two of three games from the Nats last month at Wrigley Field. However, the Nationals are slight -106 favorites to win Thursday at home.
The Cubs continue to hold a comfortable 4-game lead atop the NL Central. Even after two of three to the Brewers earlier this week, that lead feels somewhat safe barring a sudden collapse late in the season. Of course, Chicago’s magic number to clinch the division is still at 19, so they have to keep pushing to win every game they can to close out the division.
The Nationals, meanwhile, have already waived their white flag to concede the 2018 season. Washington is now two games under .500 and has already traded away several notable players, including sending Daniel Murphy to the Cubs. All that’s left for Washington this year is to perhaps play the role of spoiler.
Back in the Race
Stephen Strasburg will get the start for Washington on Thursday. He’s made three starts since returning from the DL last month and has steadily improved in each of those three starts. Last time out against the Brewers, Strasburg gave up two runs on five hits over six innings while striking out seven. His numbers on the season are a little uninspired, as he’s 7-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 17 starts.
Strasburg has also had a fair amount of trouble in his career against some of Chicago’s hitters. The good news is that Jason Heyward, who’s hitting .405 against Strasburg, is on the DL. He’s managed to stifle both Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, who are a combined 2 for 19 against Strasburg. However, a couple of the younger Cubbies have had some success against him in small-sample-sizes.
The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound on Thursday. Despite a few hiccups during the first half of the season, he’s been as steady and consistent as any Cubs pitcher since the all-star break. He’s given up just one run over his last two starts, tossing 13 innings during that span.
When he faced the Nationals last month, Hendricks scattered two runs on eight hits over six innings, taking the no-decision in a game the Cubs came back to win. For the most part, he’s managed to limit the damage against most of Washington’s hitters in his career. However, Juan Soto has had some early luck against him, while Mark Reynolds, Adam Eaton, and Bryce Harper have all given him some trouble. The likes of Soto, Harper, and Trea Turner are all swinging hot bats lately, so Hendricks could have his work cut out for him.
A Close One
Based on the line, this game is essentially a PK. However, I’m inclined to lean toward the Nationals. If Strasburg can continue to improve as he shakes off the rust from his recent DL stint, he could have success against Chicago’s lineup. The Nationals, meanwhile, have had some good offensive performances recently. Bet on the Nationals -106 to beat the Cubs on Thursday.