Cubs vs. Cardinals Preview, Saturday 7/13, 6:15 CT: The Value Of A Day Off

Look what happened when Dale Sveum finally gave Starlin Castro a day off.

From May 29 through June 23, Starlin Castro was in a horrific slump. In 24 games encompassing those dates, he hit .133/.175/.184 (13-for-98) with three walks and 25 strikeouts. Pretty much everyone in the world was begging Dale Sveum to give Castro a day off.

Finally, in the first game of a series in Milwaukee, Sveum relented and sat Castro. The Cubs lost that game 9-3, but more relevant are Castro's numbers since then: in 16 games, .299/.338/.478 (20-for-67) with three doubles, three home runs and just nine strikeouts.

Now, obviously, sitting for one day isn't by itself going to make that kind of dramatic change. But I have seen a change in Castro's at-bats; he's still working longer counts than he used to, but also driving the ball better, even when making outs. Unrelated to his hitting, he's also playing much more solid defense; his footwork is better and his throws seem much more accurate.

One day off didn't do all this. But it absolutely helped. It should have been done weeks earlier, and it wouldn't hurt to do it again if Castro slumps again. Every player needs a break from time to time.

Cubs lineup:

Valbuena 3B, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Navarro C, Bogusevic CF, Sappelt RF, Barney 2B, Garza P

Cardinals lineup:

Carpenter 2b, Descalso ss, Beltran rf, Craig lf, Aams 1b, Freese 3b, Jay cf, Cruz c, Lynn p

Today's Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza

Matt Garza


Cubs

vs. Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn


Cardinals

vs. StL

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Matt Garza 5-1 10 10 0 0 0 0 64.1 51 24 23 8 18 58 3.22 1.07


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Lance Lynn 11-3 18 18 0 0 0 0 112.2 94 46 46 5 40 113 3.67 1.19

Matt Garza is having the best year of his career, and his last five starts have been outstanding: 37 innings, 0.97 ERA, 0.865 WHIP, 34 strikeouts. The last time he faced the Cardinals was the 2012 game in which he suffered the elbow injury that put him out for the rest of the year. Will this be Garza's last start as a Cub? (Completely guessing: no.)

Lance Lynn has faced the Cubs twice this year, throwing 13 total innings and allowing seven hits and three earned runs. You might think I'd be saying "Clearly, we are doomed" here, but check out Lynn's last three starts: 4.79 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and two of those starts were against not-good teams (Astros, Marlins). Maybe the Cubs can take advantage of this mini-slump.

Today's game is on Fox. You'll want to have your mute button handy, because Fox's main broadcast team, Joe Buck & Tim McCarver, are assigned to this game. Even so, the game is only going to be seen in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama; most of Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Georgia; and parts of Ohio, Tennessee, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. (It's not as weird a coverage area as it sounds -- here's the complete coverage map.)

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 Cardinals site Viva el Birdos.

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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