July 21 MLB Preview — San Diego Padres (46-52) at Chicago Cubs (54-44)

(Joe Maddon photo courtesy Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Sunday, July 21, Wrigley Field, Chicago, Ill., 2:20 p.m. EDT.

Playing some of their best baseball of the season and looking to wrap up their nine-game homestand with eight victories, the Chicago Cubs look to complete a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

Padres to let Morejon make MLB debut as opener to Quantrill

After winning their final three games before the All-Star break to reach .500 and raise hopes for contending in the National League wild-card race, the Padres (46-52) have given up that ground and then some with seven losses in their first eight games out of the break.

Saturday’s 6-5 loss — the second straight defeat by that scoreline — put a damper on Manny Machado reaching a personal milestone with his 200th homer. It was one of three home runs for the Padres, but it was also not enough for starter and losing pitcher Joey Lucchesi as he served up a go-ahead three-run homer to Javy Baez.

The Padres are expected to go with the opener route for this game as highly touted Adrian Morejon (NR) is slated to pitch at least one and possibly two innings in his big league debut. Morejon, whose contract included an $11 million signing bonus when he agreed to terms with the Padres as a 17-year-old in 2016, logged 36 innings in 16 appearances at Double-A Amarillo prior to the call-up.

It was the last four outings that intrigued the Padres enough to call him up — the 20-year-old Cuban left-hander allowed an unearned run and one hit with one walk and eight strikeouts in eight innings. Morejon features a fastball that consistently reaches the mid-90s, and scouts rate his change-up and curve above-average.

After Morejon, fellow rookie Cal Quantrill (2-2, 4.21 ERA) will try to avoid the pratfalls that befell Lucchesi and help the Padres avert a sweep. He turned in his best start since being promoted on Sunday, limiting the Braves to three singles and a walk in six innings while he matched zeroes with Mike Soroka.

Quantrill did not factor in the decision as San Diego lost 4-1 but continued solid run in which he has posted a 2.25 ERA over six appearances both as a starter and reliever.

“Command-wise, this is the best I’ve felt,” Quantrill told the club’s official website after his 90-pitch effort.

The 24-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA in three road starts and will be making his first appearance against the Cubs.

Machado looks to be the only Padre who was unaffected by the All-Star break and enters this game 11 for 35 (.314) with five homers in eight games since the restart. He has gone yard in both defeats, which are also his first two games at Wrigley.

Hendricks tries again to end personal three-game skid

Kyle Hendricks (7-7, 3.46) has the dubious distinction of being the starter in the lone Cubs game they failed to win since the All-Star break, but that was more due to the bullpen faltering since he limited Cincinnati to a pair of solo homers in six innings Monday and left with a 3-2 lead.

Hendricks is 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA in his last four starts and has given up five homers in 17 1-3 innings, but felt he may have turned a corner with this effort.

“It comes down to keeping the same focus and making good pitches,” Hendricks told the Cubs’ official website. “Today I just made two pitches I didn’t get away with.”

The righty won both his starts against San Diego last year despite yielding six runs in 10 2-3 innings to improve to 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in eight career matchups. Hendricks is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts versus the Padres at Wrigley, where he is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in nine starts this year.

Baez has also come out of the break strong and is also hitting .314 in his first eight games after going deep for the second straight game and helping the Cubs (54-44) climb a season-high 10 games over .500. A lifetime .324 hitter versus the Padres, “El Mago” has belted five homers in the last eight meetings while going 13 for 34 (.382).

Notable Trends:

The Cubs are:

  • 10-4 in Hendricks’ last 14 home starts.
  • 54-18 in their last 72 home games vs. sub-.500 teams.
  • 5-1 in their last six games following a win.

The Padres are:

  • 3-7 in their last 10 games vs. right-handed starters.
  • 0-5 in their last five games vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 2-6 in their last eight games vs. NL Central teams.

*****5-Star Pick!!!!!

Cubs -1.5 runs (Even)

Hendricks’ strong home form makes the Cubs a solid pick, but the bullpen has been a surprising strength in this series with just one run allowed in seven innings after four one-hit frames in Saturday’s win.

While Quantrill is coming off his best performance of the season, one gets the sense the extra rest from the All-Star break helped recharge a young arm and that the Cubs will be able to back Hendricks with enough runs for the sweep.

****4-Star Pick!!!!

Cubs 3-way money line first 5 innings (-125)

The 3-way money line is offering a slightly better rate of return at -125 compared to laying the half-run at -131. Chicago has been ahead at the midway point in all but one game on this homestand (6-1-1), and that included a lead in Hendricks’ outing.

That extended a season-long trend for the right-hander as the Cubs have led after five innings in seven of his eight starts at Wrigley.

***3-Star Picks!!!

UNDER 8 runs (-115)

The original lean was the under pending the line, but after two days of playing in a sauna, the weather has changed and the wind is blowing in at the “Friendly Confines,” which has resulted in a 4.5-run swing from 24 hours ago.

The line has been oscillating between 7.5 and 8 runs leading up to the first pitch, and Hendricks’ home form gives the under a slight lean here at eight runs. The mystery is going to be Morejon and Quantrill early — if the two rookies can keep the Padres in the game the first three innings, the under should be a good play. That is, though, a big if with Morejon making his big league debut.

The under has benefitted from Hendricks bullying lesser teams, going 8-1 in his last nine starts at Wrigley versus sub-.500 teams and 14-4 in his last 18 overall against such opponents. The under is also 5-2 in his last seven starts when facing NL West foes.

Schwarber to hit HR (+250)

This is a pure hunch pick that Schwarber, who is back in the lineup after three days off and making pinch-hit appearances, will go deep — possibly even against Morejon to start the bottom of the first since there is a strong possibility the rookie can groove a fastball.

Schwarber belted solo homers in the previous three games before his three days off and had gone 6 for 16 in four games before manager Joe Maddon gave him some time off.

UNDER 4.5 runs (-121)

The hook makes the under the logical play here, though Morejon and Quantrill are enough of a combined X-factor to not feel overly aggressive about the pick. The five-inning under, though, is a healthy 9-2-1 in Hendricks’ last 12 starts for the Cubs.

Padres OVER 0.5 runs first 3 innings (-145)

The Padres have scored at least three runs in the first three innings of their last two games and pushed at least one across in five of their seven since the All-Star break. Hendricks has given up at least one run in five of his last eight at home and five of eight overall, and his shaky first-inning form — the righty has yielded 13 runs his 17 starts — make this a solid, yet safe pick.


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