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The Second Half: A New Beginning And Hope - Cubs vs. Nationals Preview, Thursday 7/16, 6:05 CT

WASHINGTON -- Finally arrived early this afternoon in the nation's capital, or more correctly, in suburban Virginia where I'm staying with friends. By the time you see this post, I should be on my way to Nationals Park; it's my first visit there. Email me if you are going to be at any of the four games and I'll try to meet up with you. I know there are a ton of expatriate Chicagoans in Washington and also there are quite a few people I know who have headed east for this series. With the Nats doing poorly and not drawing well (averaging 23,413, 24th in the majors), I expect the entire weekend to be filled with Cub-centric crowds.

At this writing the Cubs have made no roster moves, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they had made a deal, or more, or signed B.J. Ryan to a minor league contract, before they take the field tonight.

Paul Sullivan details five things the Cubs must do to improve in the second half and reports that Milton Bradley swears, yes, swears, he'll be better:

"When I tell you I'm back, I'm back," he said. "You can mark it down. I'm going to be hitting for the rest of the year."

All I can say is this: I sure hope he's right. If he can put together a second half even close to what we all expected when he was signed to the big-money deal last winter, the Cubs' offense will be markedly improved.

Bruce Miles has a similar take on the second half. So does Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times.

Update on the Cubs' sale: Tribune Co. is going to file for bankruptcy for the Cubs, as first predicted a couple of days ago. This procedural move will make it easier for the sale to be completed to the Ricketts group and will apparently help protect the new owners from Tribune Co. creditors after the sale is done:

In the Cubs' case, a Chapter 11 filing says nothing about the team's solvency or its ability to pay player contracts. But it could prevent Tribune creditors from chasing a new Cubs owner for partial satisfaction on Tribune debts.

The tactic for the Cubs "would deliver as clear a title as possible to the new owner of the team," said a source close to the talks. "It's a way in some respects of inoculating the team."

Soon. Very soon, maybe as soon as next month, we'll have new owners. In the meantime, there are games to be played. And won.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Harden
Rich Harden
vs. John Lannan
John Lannan
5-6 W-L 6-6
5.47 ERA 3.70
83 SO 50
36 BB 39
16 HR 12
vs. Was -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Rich Harden 5-6 15 14 0 0 0 0 74.0 78 49 45 16 36 83 5.47 1.54

2009 - John Lannan 6-6 18 18 1 0 0 0 112.0 117 52 46 12 39 50 3.70 1.39

Ross Detwiler was supposed to start this game, but he was sent to Triple-A Syracuse right as the break began. Instead, we get John Lannan, an actual good pitcher. I'd love to see the Cubs try to get him someday -- he's a lefty sinkerballer who would do very well at Wrigley. He is 2-0, 3.38 lifetime vs. the Cubs; the last start he made vs. the Cubs was August 22, 2008 at Wrigley. In that game, the Cubs actually hit him pretty well (5 ER in 6.1 IP), but the Nats teed off on three Cubs relievers, pounding Chad Gaudin for six runs including a grand slam by Willie Harris. Obviously, that won't happen tonight. Derrek Lee is 2-for-5 vs. Lannan with a HR.

If only the Rich Harden who threw seven two-hit, one-run, no-walk, eleven-strikeout innings vs. the Nationals on August 24, 2008 at Wrigley Field would show up tonight, we'd have no problems. The only Nat who has more than one hit off him is ex-Pirate Nyjer Morgan (3-for-4). This might be a real good game to get Harden back on track.

The Cubs are back on cable today -- CSN Chicago and MASN, the Washington/Baltimore area cable sports outlet. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.