Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Preview, Thursday 7/5, 6:10 CT

More Rizzo! Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo rounds the bases after a home run against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The Cubs have reached the mathematical halfway point of this season at 31-50 and are thus on pace for the third 100-loss season in team history. For perspective, here is the Cubs' record after 81 games each year, and the record in the second half, since the season resumed a 162-game schedule after the labor dispute in 1994-95 (note -- does not include the 1998 tiebreaker game, also, there were only 161 games played in 2008):

Year First 81 Second 81 1996 38-43 38-43 1997 32-49 36-45 1998 43-38 46-35 1999 38-43 29-52 2000 33-48 32-49 2001 48-33 40-41 2002 33-48 34-47 2003 42-39 46-35 2004 46-35 43-38 2005 40-41 39-42 2006 30-51 36-45 2007 41-40 44-37 2008 49-32 48-32 2009 41-40 42-39 2010 35-46 40-41 2011 33-48 38-43

The predictive value of this is pretty much nil; every season is different. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at recent Cubs teams and how they fared in each half. Some that we thought would be great -- 2004 -- faded, and others that were bad (1997, 2010) did a little better in the second halves of bad years.

That's what we might expect this season; the team has looked quite a bit better since Anthony Rizzo's recall, and we can possibly expect some more changes as a deal or three is made before July 31. Of course, if that means the removal of Ryan Dempster, that weakens the starting rotation.

Speaking of Dempster, he might pitch on Sunday:

If he shows well against the Mets, that could hasten a deal.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, LaHair RF, Soto C, Barney 2B, Valbuena 3B, Garza P

Braves lineup:

Bourn CF, Prado LF, Heyward RF, Freeman 1B, McCann C, Uggla 2B, Simmons SS, Francisco 3B, Minor P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Matt Garza
Matt Garza
Cubs
vs. Mike Minor
Mike Minor
Braves
4-6 W-L 4-6
4.01 ERA 6.20
80 SO 72
26 BB 38
12 HR 18
vs. Atl -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Matt Garza 4-6 15 15 0 0 0 0 89.2 78 43 40 12 26 80 4.01 1.16


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Mike Minor 4-6 15 15 0 0 0 0 85.2 88 64 59 18 38 72 6.20 1.47

Matt Garza comes into this game with an ERA+ of 100 -- exactly league average. He's had some good starts and some bad ones. Current Braves have hit him pretty hard, although in not many at-bats: 24-for-69 (.348) with one home run (Brian McCann). Maybe all the shaving-cream pie-throwing has sapped his energy too much. Now that he's not doing it any more...

Mike Minor last faced the Cubs August 23, 2011 at Wrigley Field. He pitched reasonably well that day; Minor is also the answer to the trivia question, "Who was Carlos Zambrano's opponent the day he had his final meltdown and "retirement" for the Cubs?" That happened August 12, 2011 in Atlanta. Minor threw just about the same game that day. After being one of the Braves' top prospects the last couple of years, Minor has been awful most of this season. He's still only 24 and can still succeed, but maybe this Cubs team can hit him. Current Cubs are a small-sample-size 10-for-39 (.256) against him with one home run (Alfonso Soriano).

Today's game is on CSN Chicago.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Braves site Talking Chop.

Today's first pitch thread will post at 6:10 p.m. CDT and the overflows at 7:10, 8:10 and 8:55 p.m. CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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