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Sunday Night Baseball Preview

   by ASA - 05/04/2008

Chicago Cubs (Jason Marquis) at St. Louis Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer)

Injuries to starters Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder – two former All-Stars – and Matt Clement put a major dent in the St. Louis rotation. This was a dent that was expected to give the Cardinals two straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1994-95 seasons. Sunday night starter Todd Wellemeyer, along with Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse, has done an excellent job of not only keeping St. Louis afloat but propelling them to first place in the National League Central Division.

Following a midseason trade from Kansas City to St. Louis last year, Wellemeyer bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen. The aforementioned injuries provided him with a consistent spot in the starting rotation and he has responded. He has gone 2-1 in six starts with 36 punchouts in just 37 innings. Wellemeyer has been especially tough at home with a 3.00 ERA and .231 batting average against.

Wellemeyer will no doubt have his work cut out for himself against Chicago’s league-leading offense. The Cubs are hitting well from top of the order to the bottom, leading baseball in runs per game, team batting average and team OPS. They have scored five or more runs in 17 of their 28 games and are a threat to light up the scoreboard on a daily basis. They’ll need to continue to score runs in support of starter Jason Marquis.

Marquis has been this season what Marquis will always be: a back -of-the-rotation hurler with an ERA hovering around 4.50. His career ERA is 4.55 and he seems destined to remain around that number for the rest of his career. That doesn’t mean he can’t win this game, though. His two best outings this year have come on the road, limiting Colorado to two runs over seven innings and Philadelphia to two runs over five innings. Marquis had solid outings against his former Cardinal teammates last year, going 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA.

Like its starting rotation, St. Louis has benefited from surprisingly strong efforts from a relatively unknown lineup. With well-known names Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein playing elsewhere, the Cardinals came into this season with question marks around the diamond. A majority of those questions have been answered with Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Adam Kennedy and Skip Schumaker providing support for the always unpitchable Albert Pujols.

The difference-maker in this game could be home-field advantage. Both St. Louis and Chicago have benefited from a home-heavy schedule to open the season and both have taken advantage. The Cardinals have gone 12-6 at home this season while Chicago has gone 11-6 at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubbies haven’t fared nearly as well away from home, going just 6-5 and averaging three fewer runs per game.

Chicago has enjoyed some success at Busch Stadium recently, though, going 7-2 in St. Louis last year. Additionally, the Cards and Cubs heavily favored the under in St. Louis last year, going 6-2-1 with the under. Those nine contests averaged just 7.8 runs per game with only one game reaching double digits.

NL Central battles are almost heated affairs, especially when it features the Cubs and Cardinals. With two games of the series already in the books, tempers could flare between the division rivals. Don’t miss out on the action as this game promises to bring entertaining television and even better betting.

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