Two teams in the midst of Wild Card dogfights collide for a huge interleague series this weekend as the Chicago Cubs (59-56) head up north to face off against the Toronto Blue Jays (65-52). First pitch of Friday’s opener is set for 7:07 p.m. ET from Rogers Centre. Javier Assad (1-2, 3.35 ERA) will once again fill in for Marcus Stroman in the Cubs rotation, while Toronto gives the ball to righty Jose Berrios (9-7, 3.38).
Chicago dropped two of three to the Mets this week, their first series loss since the middle of July. The Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams over the past few weeks, and they enter play Monday just a half-game back of the Miami Marlins for the third and final NL Wild Card spot. They’ll head back home next week to renew their rivalry with the crosstown White Sox at Wrigley Field.
The Jays settled for a split of their four-game series against the Guardians this week, as their bats went quiet yet again in what’s been a maddeningly inconsistent summer. Still, Toronto holds a 1.5-game lead over the Mariners for the third and final AL Wild Card spot. They’ll welcome the Phillies north of the border for a two-game set next week.
Toronto enters as -155 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Cubs at +130. The run total is set at 9.
Cubs-Blue Jays picks: Friday, August 11
Out: SP Marcus Stroman (hip), RP Brad Boxberger (forearm), RP Brandon Hughes (hip)
Day to day: C Danny Jansen (hand)
Out: RP Jordan Romano (back), SS Bo Bichette (knee), OF Kevin Kiermaier (elbow), RP Trevor Richards (neck)
Javier Assad vs. Jose Berrios
With Stroman still out with a hip injury, Assad will get the ball for the second consecutive turn through the rotation and the third time overall this year. The righty has yet to go more than four innings in any outing this season, giving up two runs on five hits over 3.2 frames against the Atlanta Braves last time out. Chicago will likely lean heavily on bullpen that ranks in the middle of the pack in baseball in reliever ERA.
Berrios has been a god-send for the Jays’ rotation this year, allowing more than three runs just five times all year — and just twice since the start of June. He pitched to a 1.84 ERA in July, but he gave up three runs on six hits over 5.2 innings against the Red Sox last time out. Berrios has shifted to a more sinker-heavy approach, shelving his four-seamer, and that — plus his typically excellent breaking ball — has done wonders for him so far this season.
The Cubs scored just eight runs across three games in New York this week, and Berrios hardly ever allows any crooked numbers. That means we’ll be relying on Toronto for most of this total, and while Assad is a pretty favorable matchup, we just watched this Blue Jays lineup without Bo Bichette get silenced by what remains of the Guardians’ pitching staff.
Pick: Under 9
Chicago likely has the deeper lineup of these two teams right now, especially with the acquisition of Jeimer Candelario, but Berrios has been a stalwart all year for Toronto. I expect the righty to do enough to carry the Jays to a series-opening win tonight.
Pick: Blue Jays