Cubs vs. Nationals Preview, Saturday 7/5, 3:05 CT

Mitchell Layton

The Cubs look to equal their longest winning streak of 2014, in going for their fifth straight win. It won't be easy, with a substitute starter for the traded Jeff Samardzija.

There's tons of stuff about the Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel trade elsewhere on this site. Here's some things about today's game -- which was supposed to have been started by Samardzija. Obviously, that's different now; see below for the new pitching matchup.

Over the last two and a half seasons -- the entirety of the Theo Epstein regime -- the Cubs have won five straight games exactly twice: May 26-31, 2013 and June 3-7, 2014. Those are the longest streaks since 2011, when the Cubs had a seven-game streak in late July/early August.

They've got a chance to match the five-game streak with a win in this afternoon's contest. But it's more than just equaling the longest streaks in the last three years. The last time a Cubs team had more than one five-game winning streak in a single season was 2009, also the last time the Cubs finished over .500.

.500 is still a long climb. Despite the excellent play lately, the Cubs are still eight games under .500 and I want to take this opportunity to remind you, as I have in comments to some recaps but never in an actual post, that only one team in Cubs history has ever come from 10 or more games under .500 to finish at .500 or better.

That was the 1968 team, which was 35-45 and went on a 49-33 run to finish 84-78, which presaged the great start to the 1969 season.

This year's team doesn't have anywhere near the talent that the 1968 bunch had. But always remember the word of Joaquin Andujar: youneverknow.

Cubs lineup:

Lake CF, Ruggiano RF, Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Castillo C, Olt 3B, Coghlan LF, Barney 2B, Villanueva P

Luis Valbuena gets the day off, and Mike Olt gets another chance.

Nationals lineup:

Span CF, Rendon 2B, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Desmond SS, Ramos C, Gonzalez P

Today's Starting Pitchers

Carlos Villanueva

Carlos Villanueva


Cubs

vs. Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez


Nationals

vs. Was

--

vs. Cubs

Carlos Villanueva has made four starts this year, and has been horrific. Usually I won't make you read the numbers, but they are eye-poppingly bad: 17⅔ innings, 35 hits and two home runs allowed, 2.094 WHIP, 9.68 ERA. About the only thing he did right in those innings was issue only two walks. However, in 10 relief appearances since June 1, he's actually been pretty good: 2.20 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 16⅓ innings. The last time he threw more than 35 pitches was May 22, so he isn't likely to go too far in this game -- expect lots of relievers.

Gio Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings against the Cubs in the first game last Saturday, allowing just two singles and a pair of walks. That was a big outing for Gonzalez, who had not been having a good year and who had missed some time on the DL. This will be a tough one for the Cubs even with Shark going.

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 Nationals site Federal Baseball.

For 2014, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as 2013. Here's how it works.

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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