After a frustrating 4-3 loss on Friday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs (62-59) look to bounce back and keep pace in an incredibly tight NL Wild Card race as they play the third of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals (40-84) on Saturday. First pitch from Wrigley Field is set for 2:20 p.m. ET. Brady Singer (8-8, 4.91 ERA) will look to keep his excellent August rolling for the visitors, while Chicago gives the ball to ace Justin Steele (13-3, 2.79).
Kansas City has been a surprisingly tough out during the second half, with a 12-11 record over their last 23 games after Friday’s win. It’s another rebuilding year for the Royals, but with Bobby Witt Jr. and Co. rolling right now, this is not a team that any playoff hopeful wants to see down the stretch. The Cubs, meanwhile, are now just 5-5 over their last 10, coughing up crucial games as they sit tied in the loss column with the Reds and Marlins for NL’s third Wild Card spot. They’ll wrap up their homestand this week before hitting the road for three against the Tigers in Detroit.
The Cubs enter as -192 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Royals at +160. The run total is set at 9.5.
Royals-Cubs picks: Saturday, August 19th
Out: SP Brad Keller (right shoulder impingement), RP Taylor Clarke (right elbow inflammation), 1B Nick Pratto (left groin strain), SP Daniel Lynch (left shoulder strain), SP Zack Greinke (right posterior elbow soreness)
Out: SP Marcus Stroman (right rib cartilage fracture), RP Nick Burdi (appendectomy), RP Brandon Hughes (left knee inflammation)
Brady Singer vs. Justin Steele
After a very rough start to his 2023, Singer has come on of late, with a 2.05 ERA over three starts in the month of August and two or fewer runs allowed in each of his last five. The key to the turnaround has been his slider: Singer is commanding the pitch down and glove-side about as well as he ever has, and batters are hitting just .057 against it in August with a 34.4% whiff rate. The righty is really just a two-pitch pitcher, using his sinker and slider almost exclusively, and he needs that sort of precision to find success. When he doesn’t have it, the wheels can come off, but he’s been on a roll for weeks now.
Steele has seen more or less the opposite trajectory, looking like a legit Cy Young candidate during the first half but pitching to a mediocre 4.96 ERA so far in August. He’s given up 22 hits and nine earned runs over three starts this month, not showing nearly the sort of command that he displayed earlier this season. His story is actually somewhat similar to Singer’s: The lefty is a two-pitch pitcher, working four-seam fastballs at the top of the zone and sliders down, and he needs to be hitting his spots to find success.
The Royals have shown some offensive punch of late, but they’ve been far better against righties than lefties — their team OPS against southpaws sits just 21st in the league since August 1. The Cubs, meanwhile, have scored more than four runs just once in their last eight games, and with the way Singer is pitching right now, I have a hard time seeing them bucking that trend this afternoon. Wrigley Field in late summer is always a dangerous proposition, but I think both of these starters do enough to stay under this relatively high number.
Pick: Under 9.5
Singer has been the better starter of these two of late, but we’ve seen these stretches from him before only to have him throw up a clunker when his command falls apart. Steele is due for a bounce-back effort — his strikeouts have still been there even recently, suggesting his stuff is still as good as ever — and I think he gets it against a Royals club that struggles against lefties. I’m backing the Cubs to pick up a much-needed win on Saturday.