Texas Rangers (+125) at Chicago Cubs (-130)
After losing nine of their final 11 games before the All-Star break, the Chicago Cubs (54-35, 27-14 Home) didn’t use their time off to dwell on their recent misfortunes. Instead, they regained their focus, and put together a great performance to start the second half of the season, shutting out the AL-leading Texas Rangers (54-37, 25-22 Away), 6-0. The second game of the series will take place this afternoon at Wrigley Field (2:20 PM Eastern).
The Cubs are not the only team who entered the break in a slump. Texas has now dropped ten of their last 13 games, and are at serious risk of being caught in the American League. With teams like the Indians, Orioles, Red Sox, and Jays all within a few games, the Rangers will need a spark to get them back on track.
After the Cubs beat up lefty Martin Perez on Friday, the Texas Rangers will hope Yu Darvish (2-0, 2.87 ERA) can provide that spark and cool down the Cubs’ bats. Despite only making his fourth start of the season, and his first since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 8 (shoulder discomfort), Darvish may be the shot in the arm the club needs. The right-hander began the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of 2015, but has proven he can be dominant when healthy.
Opposing Darvish will be right-hander Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.46 ERA). In only two starts thus far in the month of July, Hammel has already given up as many runs as he did all of June (12). This is largely in part to his start against the Mets, which saw him give up ten earned runs in four innings.
The first game of the series didn’t go Texas’ way, and despite an advantage on the mound on Saturday, the result won’t be any more favorable. These Cubs were once threatening the all-time single-season wins record, and have now weathered their big slump of the season. Expect them to get back to their record-setting ways.
Pick: Cubs (-130).
(Photo Credit: mjl816 (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)