Cubs vs. Athletics Preview, Wednesday 7/3, 9:05 CT: 81

USA TODAY Sports

After the completion of Tuesday's game, the Cubs are exactly halfway through the 2013 season. Let's have a look at where they stand, and how that compares with 2012.

OAKLAND -- At 35-46 halfway through the 2013 season, the Cubs are four games better than they were at the halfway mark a year ago, and if they match that in the second half, they'd have a 70-win season, a nine-game improvement over 2012. That's a step in the right direction.

Four games is a theme here, because the Cubs are also four games worse than their Pythagorean projection for wins based on their -11 run differential. 39-42 would seem a lot closer to the way this team has played. Obviously, the poor bullpen work for most of the year (17 blown saves, most in the major leagues) is the primary reason for this differential; a secondary reason would be the abysmal team hitting with RISP (.230/.317/.393 in 642 at-bats).

The Cubs attempted to address the bullpen problems in the two trades completed Tuesday, acquiring Pedro Strop and Matt Guerrier. Both have been bad this year. Both have been good in the past; Guerrier is basically a placeholder, the consolation prize for getting rid of Carlos Marmol. Strop is young enough that maybe he can recover his 2012 form. Apart from Carlos Villanueva, who has moved from the rotation to the bullpen and could wind up a starter again, the Cubs have used 14 different relievers this year. Strop and Guerrier not only make that total 16 when they make their first appearances in blue pinstripes, but they'll be the 40th and 41st Cubs in uniform this year. The team record, set last year, is 53 (previous record: 49 in 1966). There's a fair chance that record gets broken again this year.

Beyond the run-differential issue -- the Yankees, for example, have a run differential of -2, yet are five games over .500 and in playoff contention -- this team is now 10-18 in one-run games. That's actually a slight improvement over last year's overall one-run record (15-27). I think you can see that even winning four more one-run games -- which would make a .500 one-run record -- would, at this time, have given the Cubs that 39-42 record which would match the run differential.

This team is not that far from being at least a .500 club. Depending on who they trade and who replaces them, though, that might not last too long in the second half; remember, the Cubs were 18-43 after July 31, 2012. I'd like to think they can do better this year.

ICYMI, here's some info about some Blackhawks appearing at Wrigley this weekend:

Cubs lineup:

Valbuena 3B, Castro SS, Schierholtz RF, Soriano DH, Rizzo 1B, Navarro C, Bogusevic LF, Barney 2B, Borbon CF

Athletics lineup:

Crisp CF, Smith DH, Lowrie SS, Cespedes LF, Moss 1B, Donaldson 3B, Jaso C, Reddick RF, Sogard 2B

Today's Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza

Matt Garza


Cubs

vs. Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon


Athletics

vs. Oak

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Matt Garza 3-1 8 8 0 0 0 0 49.1 42 21 21 6 15 47 3.83 1.16


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Bartolo Colon 11-2 16 16 2 2 0 0 106.1 102 33 33 8 13 61 2.79 1.08

Matt Garza, who could very well be making his last start for the Cubs, has allowed just two runs in 22 innings over his last three starts, with five walks and 23 strikeouts. That's really, really good. If he does that again, I'd guess the trigger could be pulled on a deal soon (Garza would next be scheduled to start against the White Sox in the makeup game at the Cell next Monday). Current members of the A's are a small-sample-size 10-for-52 (.192) against Garza with no home runs.

Bartolo Colon, wow. After serving a PED suspension last year, he's come back in 2013 at age 40 and been even better. Most impressive: 13 walks in 106⅓ innings. Current members of the Cubs are 10-for-46 against him (.217), though with three home runs (two by Alfonso Soriano, one by Luis Valbuena; Valbuena is 1-for-1 vs. Colon). Colon posted a 1.75 ERA in five June starts. Unless Garza is really, really good tonight, doom could be heading our way.

Today's game will start on CSN Chicago Plus ("check local listings"). After the White Sox game ends, it will switch to the main CSN channel.

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 Athletics site Athletics Nation.

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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