Cubs vs. Marlins Preview, Sunday 4/28, 12:10 CT: Could It Be 4?

Mike Ehrmann

The Cubs haven't had a four-game sweep in almost two years. It could happen today.

As you know, the Cubs have played every game this season relatively close. After 23 games, no Cubs game has been what baseball-reference.com terms a "blowout" -- a game decided by five or more runs. According to Paul Sullivan, this is quite rare:

The Cubs now have started the season with 23 straight games decided by four or fewer runs, tied with the 1997 Giants for third most in major league history.

Unlike these Cubs, the 1997 Giants got off to a great start and were 16-7 after 23 games. Exactly how do the 23 Cubs games so far this year break down?

Games decided by one run: 4-6
Games decided by two runs: 3-2
Games decided by three runs: 1-4
Games decided by four runs: 1-2

None of those records is great, but the Cubs are clearly playing better now, having won three in a row and four of their last five. I want to particularly note the one-run game total; that's 10 of the first 23 games, or 43.5 percent. If you extrapolate from there, it would put the Cubs on pace to have 70 one-run games this year. The major-league record for one-run games in a season is 75, set by the 1971 Astros (who finished 79-83). The Cubs' team record is 66, set in 1974. That team went 30-36 in one-run games... and 36-60 in all other games, finishing with 96 defeats.

Believe it or not, the Cubs don't even lead the major leagues this year in one-run games; the White Sox already have 12 and the Diamondbacks 11.

Nevertheless, this team is keeping things close. If they can continue to get good bullpen work as they have the last couple of games, even a tiny bit of added offense could produce many more victories.

Here's something fun to watch, especially for those of you who are Tony Campana fans: he steals his way around the bases.

Well, this is a first. The Cubs' lineup was not available at posting time. I'll try to get it in the comments once it's released.

Marlins lineup:

Pierre LF, Coghlan CF, Stanton RF, Dobbs 1B, Solano 2B, Brantly C, Green SS, Valaika 3B, Nolasco P

Today's Starting Pitchers

Carlos Villanueva

Carlos Villanueva


Cubs

vs. Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco


Marlins

vs. Mia

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Carlos Villanueva 1-0 4 4 0 0 0 0 29.1 16 5 5 4 6 21 1.53 .75


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Ricky Nolasco 1-2 5 5 0 0 0 0 28.1 29 13 12 3 7 19 3.81 1.27

Carlos Villanueva's start this season is the most pleasant surprise, I'd say, of any start for any Chicago Cub. He seems to have stepped his game up to another level. Is it real? Or will he come back to Earth soon? One thing is for sure. This Marlins team is offensively-challenged and they have little combined experience against Villanueva (9-for-42, .214). That gives hope that Villanueva can continue his fine start. Which could get him traded... or extended.

Former Cubs prospect Ricky Nolasco is one of the few Marlins doing anything like "decent" so far this season. He faced the Cubs in Miami just a little over a year ago, April 19, 2012, and did all right in a Miami win. Dioner Navarro has had bizarrely good success against him: 7-for-10, two doubles, a home run; overall, current Cubs are hitting .297 (30-for-101) against Nolasco, who looks ... well, sort of evil in that photo.

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 Marlins site FishStripes.

Here's the scoop on game threads for 2013. You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.

You will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at five minutes before game time (moved up from actual game time per your requests), then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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