Saturday MLB Preview – Phillies at Cubs

The Cubs have picked up the first two games of the series and are after more, but the road team has other ideas.

Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs

Philadelphia has dropped the first two games of this four-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, but will now turn to its pair of aces over the weekend.  “We need to win tomorrow,” manager Charlie Manuel said.  “We’ll work on Sunday when we get there.”  The Phillies are now a game under .500 in July (6-7, -280), after going 20-7 during the month last season.  The club is still 17-10 against NL Central teams this season, which is similar to its 23-16 mark against the division in 2009.  First baseman Ryan Howard has produced three home runs and six RBIs in the first two games of this series and 20 homers on the season.  Don’t expect such a low-scoring game on Saturday, with the team having a 17-11 O/U mark in daytime games.

Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels is an even 7-7 with a 3.78 ERA in 18 starts this season (-420) and is coming off one of his best outings of the year.  In that appearance, he tossed 7.2 shutout innings and allowed just six hits while striking out three in a 1-0 home victory over the NL Central-leading Reds.  Before that dominant performance, the Phillies had dropped four consecutive games with him on the mound.  Hamels is 3-4 with a 4.63 ERA in eight road starts, allowing nine home runs in just 44.2 innings of work.  He will be making his sixth career start against the Cubs, posting a 3-1 mark and 2.61 ERA (+100).

Chicago has won seven of its last 11 games, after dropping eight of its previous 11.  The Cubs have played numerous close games this season, including its 4-3 victory on Friday afternoon, which happened to be the 32nd one-run game of the season.  The team is 12-20 in that situation this year, with their 20 setbacks being the most in baseball.  Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has provided the added punch the team has missed in the middle of the lineup, going 16-for-33 with five home runs and 14 RBIs over his last eight games.  He managed to hit just .178 in his first 56 games of the season.  Chicago may have picked up a daytime victory in the second game of the series, but the team is still 22-25 under the sun this season (-1,020).

Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells is 4-7 with a 4.61 ERA in 18 starts this season (-380), as the right-hander has been victimized by low run support over his last three starts.  In those games, the Cubs offense has managed to score just seven runs, with the right-hander allowing five runs and 14 hits over 20.2 innings.  He looks to even up his record at Wrigley Field tonight, going 2-3 with a 4.61 ERA in nine home starts.  Wells has bounced back nicely after suffering through a winless 0-6 period the last two months, compiling a 1-1 record and 2.45 ERA in two July starts.  He will be making his first career appearance against the Phillies this afternoon.

Bettors must acknowledge the Phillies 6-3 mark on the road with a money line of -100 to -125 this season and 37-17 record the last three seasons in this spot (+1,730).  The home team is also an even 15-15 against left-handed starters in 2010.

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