The Chicago Cubs are in first place after they won and the Nationals beat the Brewers.
The NL already had competitiveness left to be desired when the Cubs were trying to chase down the Brewers. Now it feels like three divisions with three forgone conclusions.
Perhaps I’m hasty. It isn’t as if the Cubs are thinking magic number; they still have to hold their lead and the best way to do that is by beating teams like the White Sox.
Jon Lester isn’t fooling around anymore. He’s taken his ERA down under 4.00 with two wins, in Atlanta and at home against the Giants. He went seven innings in the first, eight in the second, and gave up a total of three runs. He struck out 16 and walked one, if you were still skeptical. He should be as effective against the White Sox, who scored eight runs on July 1 and not more than six in any game since.
He’ll face Mike Pelfrey, a thoughtful veteran who loves to pitch. It’s that character that means more than anything because it’s what plays for a last place team. It has to be hard to finish out the last two months of this season as an everyday player but if there’s anybody the young White Sox defense will get up to play for, it’s Mike Pelfrey.
He’s pitched pretty well of late, too. He’s 33, turning 34 in January, and presumably wants to keep pitching next season. He gave up two hits and a run in five innings in his last start against Kansas City and came an out away from getting thru five against Seattle the outing before that; he gave up four hits and a run.
Only three Cubs have ever faced Pelfrey: Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Jon Jay. Lefties hit Pelfrey but those three are only 8-for-33 without a walk. Watch out for Anthony Rizzo. Otherwise, I like Pelfrey in this spot against a lot of right-handed bats.
If Lester gives up two and Pelfrey gives up three, we’re still under the total for the first five innings, which is six. That’s our play this evening.
Free Pick: Under 6.0 First 5 Innings (-105)