Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs Clash in Opener of 4-Game Series

The Cincinnati Reds (66-45, 30-25 away) head to Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois tonight for the opener of a 4-game series with the Chicago Cubs (43-66, 27-24 home), looking to climb out of a 4-game slump that has seen their lead in the NL Central decrease to just 2.5 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, with an opportunity to play the Cubs 8 times in the next 11 games, a team that has suffered through a 7-game losing streak, Cincinnati will look to snap their losing skid and continue to challenge the Washington Nationals for the best record in the National League. With game time set for 8:05 PM ET, and this match-up being the lone MLB game on Thursday evening, make sure to settle into a few wagers at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed at CR on this intriguing match-up.

What will make this opening game interesting tonight is the fact that the pitching match-up features two hurlers with losing records, who have both struggled a bit since the All-Star break. For Cincinnati, Mike Leake (4-7, 4.51 ERA) has seemed to lost his mid-season mojo, giving up at least 4 runs in three of his last 4 starts, and is just 1-2 in his last 6 starts. In one appearance against the Cubs this season, he was tagged for 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings of work, giving up 10 hits in the process, which has been the X-factor for Leake all year long. Adding to concerns around his effectiveness against Chicago is the Cubs’ penchant for hitting off him, with a collective team average of .348. Starlin Castro has been one of the more productive Cubs hitters off Leake, holding a .364 average against him and all Cincinnati pitchers. He could use an uplift in performance tonight, having gone just 1-for-22 in the past week. Another batsmen Leake will want to watch out for is Darwin Barney, who is 6-for-12 lifetime against him. With the Cubs struggling to find runs and hitting, some of the quicker small-ball players will have to do their job to get on base against Cincy, and get into position to generate runs here and there. With Cincinnati’s line-up packed with more power and supported by a better pitching staff, the Cubs have to crack Leake early and often, starting with the top of their batting order.

For Chris Volstad (0-8, 7.72 ERA), it’s hard to feel anything but bad for the guy, who’s certainly having the roughest year of his career. Coming into tonight’s match-up off 5 consecutive losses, and having yet to taste victory this year, Cincinnati will be a tough match-up for him, considering that in the last meeting he was served with 5 runs on 5 innings of work in a 9-5 Reds win. However, a bright spot has appeared recently for Volstad, who comes off a solid 7 inning, 2 run performance against the Dodgers, albeit in a 3-1 loss. After giving up at least 4 runs in 7 previous starts, that should be something to build on for the 6’8” pitcher out of Palm Beach, Florida, but like Mike Leake, he has to be better at avoid a slew of runs early in the ballgame to give his team a chance. Adding to that, Chicago needs to get him support from the get-go. While Volstad hasn’t held his end of the bargain by holding just 1 quality start in the last 2 months, he’s had north of 3 runs of support just once in his last 5 starts, which doesn’t give a struggling pitcher any confidence when taking the mound. Volstad will have to work to avoid to big inning, taking care to work around the big Reds bats like that of Joey Votto (.400 against him) and Brandon Phillips (.429) and Ryan Ludwick, who all are capable of putting the ball over the fence tonight. Expect runs to be inevitable for Chris Volstad, but if he can get support from the Cubs’ offense and get through the first 2-3 innings unscathed, Chicago has a chance to be an upset pick tonight at home against a somewhat slumping Reds team.

Betting Lines for the Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs at Bovada Sportsbook.

The Cincinnati Reds will be favored straight up on the money line for tonight’s Game 1, getting -160 odds to prevail for their first win in 5 games. However, this presents an interesting opportunity for risk takers, with Chicago getting +145 odds to win at home tonight. Definitely check yourself with Chris Volstad on the mound, who hasn’t won a ballgame this year, but there’s no better time for him that right now coming off a solid start last weekend, and with a slumping Reds team coming into town, a small money wager on the underdog could pay off well here.

Against the spread, the bookmakers at Bovada have made it tough to choose, with Chicago at -115 odds to cover 1 ½ runs as underdogs, and Cincinnati getting -1 ½ runs at -105 odds as favorites. Cincy has failed to cover the spread in 5 out of their last 6 games. Chicago, losers of their last 7 games, have also failed to cover the spread in 6 of their last 7 defeats (only once staying within one run). If you’re going to wager here, you’ve got to go with the bigger bats and the overall better team, but again err on the side of caution as it’s anyone’s ballgame with two slumping groups meeting head-to-head.

Lastly for total runs, the over/under is set at 7 ½ for this evening’s match-up, with the over bet giving -105 odds, and the under taking -115 odds. With two struggling pitchers, and both teams hell-bent on breaking a losing streak tonight, the best pick across any lines should be taking the over bet at the best odds available. Both teams hit well against the opposing pitching, and bot pitchers have been inconsistent for the past few months, leading us to go in on an over bet on total runs here tonight.