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Sunday Night Baseball features a National League Central showdown between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. There’s no love lost between these two rivals, but these squads are headed in opposite directions. The Cardinals have won seven of their past 10 games, bringing their record to 31-23 for the year. They’re currently 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers for the top spot in the division and they’re in good shape to qualify for the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Cubes are in the midst of a complete rebuild. They traded away former franchise pillars in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez, so the team has unsurprisingly struggled in 2022. They’re just 23-31, good for the third-worst record in the NL.
Can the Cubes pull off the upset under the bright lights of Wrigley Field? Let’s dive into some of my favorite wagers for Sunday Night Baseball on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Cubes will be taking on Adam Wainwright in this contest — and they certainly know him well. Wainwright has made 53 starts against the Cubes throughout his career, his most against any opponent.
The Cubes will turn to Justin Steele and this looks like a massive mismatch on paper. Wainwright has pitched to a 2.75 ERA in 2022, while Steele has struggled to a 5.40 ERA.
However, the advanced metrics paint a different picture. Steele has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball this season, with opposing batters managing a .342 batting average on balls in play. Batters aren’t making particularly good contact against Steele, either, who ranks in the 69th percentile for hard-hit rate and the 74th percentile for average exit velocity. Steele is also adept at generating swings and misses, tallying 10.35 strikeouts per nine innings.
Add it all up, and Steele’s 3.48 xERA is more than two runs better than his actual mark. That suggests plenty of room for progression moving forward and it’s slightly better than Wainwright’s xERA of 3.76.
The sharps have also taken an interest in the Cubes in this matchup. They’ve received 39 percent of the moneyline dollars on just 11 percent of the wagers. A discrepancy that typically suggests that the big bets — which tend to come from professional bettors — are siding with the home team.
Justin Steele under 4.5 strikeouts (-135)
As much as I like Steele, it’s fair to say this is a brutal matchup. The Cardinals have absolutely raked against left-handed pitchers to start the year.
While I think Steele can limit the damage on balls in play, he should struggle to pile up the strikeouts. The Cardinals have whiffed in just 18.6 percent of at bats against southpaws, the sixth-lowest mark in the league.
Steele is also expected to see a heavy dose of right-handed batters — eight of the Cardinals’ nine projected starters are right-handed — and he’s been much more mediocre from a strikeout perspective in that split. His K/9 is an elite 15.55 against left-handed hitters, but it falls to just 8.38 against righties.
The under is juiced up to -135, but there’s enough here to support a wager.
If Steele is able to keep the Cardinals’ offense from doing significant damage, Wainwright should be able to hold up his end of the bargain. The 40-year-old continues to age like a fine wine and the Cubes’ offense is not particularly imposing. They’ve been a bit better than expected against right-handed pitchers, but they still rank exactly league-average in that split.
Wainwright continues to lean on his signature looping curveball — and batters continue to struggle with it. Opponents have made hard contact on just 25 percent of batted-ball events vs. Wainwright’s curve, resulting in a .280 xwOBA.
Overall, Wainwright has limited opposing batters to a hard-hit rate of just 28.9 percent, putting him in the 89th percentile. With both pitchers excelling at limiting hard contact, there’s a good case for the under on 8.5 runs.
Willson Contreras over 0.5 HRs (+400)
When Wainwright isnt throwing his curveball, he relies on four other primary pitches: a sinker, cutter, changeup and four-seam fastball. Of that group, his sinker is his next most featured pitch at 27.9 percent — and it is arguably his worst offering. Opposing batters are routinely making hard contact against his sinker, resulting in a .537 xSLG.
Contraras is one of the last remaining members from the previous Cubs regime and he will likely finish the season elsewhere. He’s had a fantastic start to the year for the Cubbies, ranking in the 93rd percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xwOBA and xSLG. He’s currently on pace for new career highs in each of those categories and his traditional numbers have been equally good. Contreras has racked up nine homers with a .915 OPS.
Contraras is also absolutely elite against sinkers. He’s seen 145 sinkers so far this season and he’s posted a .668 xSLG against the pitch. He also owns a .958 xSLG against curveballs, so he is perfectly suited for a matchup vs. Wainwright. I like his chances of hitting a ball over the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley.
Albert Pujols over 0.5 hits (-205)
Like Wainwright, Pujols is another player on the final stretch of a Hall of Fame career. He’s obviously not the same player that he was in his prime, but he’s still capable at the dish. He’s posted a 103 wRC+ so far this season, which makes him a slightly above-average hitter.
Pujols has also historically feasted against left-handed pitching and he continues to perform at an elite level in that split. He owns a .357 batting average against southpaws so far this season and he’s clubbed two homers in just 28 at-bats.
He’s expected to own a premium spot in the Cardinals’ lineup on Sunday night, making him a strong candidate for a hit.
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