After splitting the first two games of this three-game set, the Atlanta Braves (70-38) and Chicago Cubs (57-54) will both be gunning for a big series victory in the rubber match on Sunday afternoon. First pitch from Wrigley Field is set for 2:20 p.m. ET. Charlie Morton (10-9, 3.62 ERA) will start for Atlanta, while Chicago hands the ball to ace Justin Steele (12-3, 2.65).
MLB’s first time to 70 wins, the Braves have had the NL East sewn up for seemingly months now and are a whopping 7.5 games up on the Dodgers for the top overall seed in the National League. After Sunday, they’ll head back east to continue their road trip against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Saturday’s big bounce-back win made it four of five and seven of 10 for the Cubs, who’ve now over taken the Arizona Diamondbacks and are officially tied with the Cincinnati Reds in the loss column for the third and final NL Wild Card spot. Chicago will head out on the road from here, kicking off a three-game series in New York against the Mets on Monday night.
Atlanta enters as narrow -122 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Cubs at +102. The run total is set at 8.5.
Braves-Cubs picks: Sunday, August 6
Out: OF Sam Hilliard (heel), RP Dylan Lee (shoulder), RP Jesse Chavez (shin)
Out: SP Marcus Stroman (hip)
Charlie Morton vs. Justin Steele
Morton has hit a bit of a rough patch recently, with 11 earned runs allowed across 15.1 innings over his last three starts — including three runs on six hits and three walks in a loss against the Los Angeles Angels last time out. The 39-year-old’s curveball is as effective a weapon as ever, but his fastball command has been spotty, especially of late, leading to too much loud contact. He’s still capable of great starts, but he’s become a bit boom-or-bust this year.
Steele, meanwhile, is coming off of arguably his worst start of the year — which also tells you just how great his year has been so far. The lefty gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits while striking out six against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, just the fifth time in 20 starts this season that he’s allowed more than two runs. Steele has been as reliable as they come otherwise, with pristine command of both his fastball and slider allowing him to survive as a two-pitch pitcher.
These are two pitchers more than capable of shoving this afternoon, but they’ll also be facing two of the hottest offenses in baseball — and I’m siding with the latter, and the over, on Sunday. This Braves war machine has been nearly impossible for anyone to keep down for an entire game; they’ve scored fewer than five runs just once in their last five, and they should be able to at least push across 3-4 even against Steele. The Cubs, meanwhile, are second only to Atlanta in team wRC+ over the last two weeks, and given Morton’s penchant for the home run ball — and how hitter-friendly Wrigley Field in late summer can be — I’m expecting another higher-scoring game like Saturday’s 8-6 final.
Pick: Over 8.5
It’s awfully hard to pick against this Braves lineup right now, but Chicago are no slouches themselves, and I have a bit more faith in Steele than Morton heading into this matchup. With plus odds, give me the team with the best starting pitcher and a lineup deep enough to provide plenty of run support.