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The Season's Final Third Begins: Cubs vs. Rockies Preview, Sunday 8/9, 2:10 CT

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The Cubs have played 108 games -- two-thirds of the season; they are tied with the Phillies and Angels for fewest games played, and still have four games in hand vs. the Cardinals (who have to face Zach Duke today -- maybe the Pirates can salvage one game out of their series). The current Cubs winning percentage -- .537 -- would get them 87 wins for a full season (meaning they'd go 29-25 for the remaining 54 games). That probably won't be enough -- I think, given the way the division race is going now, it'll take 90 wins to take the NL Central, meaning the Cubs would have to go 32-22.

Is that doable? Sure it is. But they'll have to step it up -- and hopefully, the injury parade of starting pitchers to the DL is going to end after Carlos Zambrano returns. The acquisition of Tom Gorzelanny looks even more fortuitous now; hopefully, with Ted Lilly's return from the DL about the same time Z comes back, the cost of Z's back injury will be only one game (Friday's). Jeff Samardzija will make his first major league start on Wednesday at home vs. the Phillies, taking Z's spot in the rotation that day.

As first mentioned in Worf's FanPost, speaking of Z, his batting practice exploits are going to be cut back:

The Cubs put their Opening Day starter on the 15-day disabled list Saturday for what they believe is an aggravated bulging disc he has had in his lower back for the last several seasons.

They also believe his exuberant approach to BP before his starts might have contributed to the back acting up and forcing him to leave his Aug. 1 start after three innings and then causing him to cut short his pregame warmups Friday.

If that's the case, "we can curtail that," manager Lou Piniella said of how much BP Zambrano is allowed to take before starts.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
Cubs
vs. Jason Hammel
Jason Hammel
Rockies
8-4 W-L 6-6
2.73 ERA 4.62
65 SO 77
23 BB 25
9 HR 11
vs. Col -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Randy Wells 8-4 16 16 0 0 0 0 102.1 94 32 31 9 23 65 2.73 1.14


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Hammel 6-6 22 19 1 0 0 0 109.0 137 64 56 11 25 77 4.62 1.49

Jason Hammel was acquired by Colorado from Tampa Bay just before Opening Day this year. He pitched both in relief and as a starter in Tampa, and has been mostly a starter (19 starts in 22 appearances) for the Rockies. He has never faced the Cubs and only one player in today's lineup -- Milton Bradley -- has ever faced him (1-for-1).

Randy Wells will also be facing his opponent, the Rockies, for the first time today. Since this is the Cubs' 109th game, and Wells comes in with 102.1 innings pitched, if he throws at least 6.2 innings, he will then qualify for the league leaders list (one IP per team game played). His current 2.73 ERA, if he qualified now, would rank sixth in the NL.

National TV today is available on WGN. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Rockies site Purple Row.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 3:15 pm, 4:15 pm and 5 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.