Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Friday 6/21, 1:20 CT: Remember, This Is Interleague

Dilip Vishwanat

The new-look Astros, now from the American League West, have played quite well in June. These aren't your 2012 Astros. They might even be good.

When last we saw the Houston Astros, it was in the mighty meeting of two 100-loss teams October 3, 2012. The Cubs beat Houston 5-4 on a walkoff hit by Bryan LaHair, sending the Astros to their franchise-record 107th loss. They were a divisional rival then.

Now they're an American League team, and you'll probably have to remind yourself all weekend that this is an interleague series, not a divisional matchup. The Astros have new uniforms and colors that are sort of, but not exactly, like those they wore 40-plus years ago.

And you know what? After an awful start, the Astros are 10-9 this month (including a walkoff win in extras against the Brewers Thursday), which is 3½ games better than the Cubs in June. Their starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.36 in June, which is the best of any team in the major leagues. (No, I am not making that up.) After being 15-37 on May 28, the Astros are 13-9.

So this series, which appeared to be a possible breather for the Cubs in between divisional matchups with the Cardinals and Brewers, might be more competitive than we'd like. Just remember: the Astros aren't in the Cubs' division any more.

Incidentally, the Cubs are 6-2 in interleague play so far this year and haven't lost an interleague series (3-0 vs. White Sox, 2-1 vs. Rangers, 1-1 vs. Angels).

Cubs lineup:

Barney 2B, Ransom 3B, Soriano LF, Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Navarro C, Hairston RF, Sweeney CF, Garza P

Starlin Castro held hostage in the starting lineup, Day 72. Yes, it's against a LHP. So what? (And hitting fifth!)

Astros lineup:

Barnes CF, Altuve 2B, Castro C, Carter LF, Pena 1B, Maxwell RF, Dominguez 3B, Gonzalez SS, Keuchel P

Today's Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza

Matt Garza


Cubs

vs. Dallas Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel


Astros

vs. Hou

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Matt Garza 1-1 6 6 0 0 0 0 34.1 30 19 19 5 12 29 4.98 1.22


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Dallas Keuchel 4-3 14 8 0 0 0 0 66.0 75 37 31 8 21 43 4.23 1.45

Matt Garza faced the Astros twice last year, and did not do so well -- 8⅓ innings, 10 earned runs, only three strikeouts. He's barely faced most of the current Houston team; overall they're just 7-for-33 against him. Garza was very good in his last start, Sunday in New York; hopefully, this will carry over.

Dallas Keuchel's only career start against the Cubs came September 10, 2012 in Houston; he threw four innings, allowed one run, and current Cubs are 4-for-15 against him. Like the rest of the Astros staff, he's been very good lately: a 2.13 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in his last four starts. Clearly, we are doomed.

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 Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.

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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