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Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Friday 10/1, 7:05 CT: The Home Stretch

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Here is your handy guide to all the various things that can or might happen on this final weekend of the regular season -- beginning with the Cubs:
  • If the Cubs sweep the Astros, they will finish ahead of them. Combine that with a Reds sweep of the Brewers -- that would put the Cubs tied with Milwaukee for third place. The Reds do have an incentive to win games this weekend -- they still have a shot at passing the NL West winner for the #2 seed in the playoffs.
  • The Padres must sweep the Giants to force a tie in the NL West; they would then host a tiebreaker game. No more coin flips; the team with the better head-to-head record hosts tiebreakers. Even if they don't do this, if SD wins two of three from SF and the Braves get swept by the Phillies, the Padres and Braves would tie for the wild card -- that tiebreaker would be played in Atlanta. A three-way tie can still happen if the Padres sweep and the Braves lose two of three; that would put all three teams at 91 wins.
  • The Yankees and Rays are tied for the AL East lead. The Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway; the Rays play the Royals in Kansas City. If it winds up tied, the Rays will be division champions by tiebreaker (a 10-8 head-to-head mark) since both teams qualify for the playoffs. It is still possible for the Twins, one game behind, to pass both of them for the best record in the AL. Minnesota hosts the Blue Jays this weekend. Toronto has a shot to break the all-time team record for HR in a season, though they'd need 12 in three games (record: 264, by the 1997 Mariners).
  • In the losers' bracket, the Pirates can set a new record for fewest road wins in a 162-game season if they get swept by the Marlins -- they have won 16 road games. The record of 17 is held by the 1963 Mets (the famous 1962 Mets won 18 road games; those are the only two teams in the 162-game era to have fewer than 20 road wins in a single season). Of those 16 road wins, five were at Wrigley Field. In only two other road parks did the Pirates win more than one game -- two each in Milwaukee and Colorado.
  • If the Marlins outscore the Pirates this weekend by 22 runs or more, the Pirates would have a -300 (or higher) run differential. The last team that was outscored by 300 or more runs was the 2003 Tigers (591-928). The last National League team that was outscored by 300 or more runs was the 1962 Mets (616-943). The Pirates are currently the only team with 100 losses; the Mariners must win two of three from the Athletics at home to avoid losing 100. Seven teams will lose 90+ this year; no one will be added to that list this weekend. The Cubs avoided a 90-loss season by winning yesterday.
  • No team will win 100 games this year -- the max would be 98 by the Phillies -- but as many as 10 teams could have 90 wins (six already, plus four others within three wins of 90).
  • All 30 teams have played 159 games, except the Tigers and Orioles, who were rained out yesterday but will make up that game today. Presuming all teams finish 162 games and there are no tiebreakers, this will be the first time since 2005 that all 30 teams will have played exactly 162 games.

Meanwhile, here is tonight's lineup via tweet from Carrie (Welington Castillo backers rejoice):

#Cubs lineup vs #Astros for Fri: CF Fuld, SS Barney, 2B DeWitt, LF Soriano, 1B Hoffpauir, RF Snyder, 3B Scales, C Castillo, P Coleman
Today's Starting Pitchers
Casey Coleman
Casey Coleman
Cubs
vs. Bud Norris
Bud Norris
Astros
3-2 W-L 9-9
4.68 ERA 5.00
25 SO 152
24 BB 70
3 HR 18
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Casey Coleman 3-2 10 7 0 0 0 0 50.0 50 27 26 3 24 25 4.68 1.48


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Bud Norris 9-9 26 26 0 0 0 0 147.2 148 92 82 18 70 152 5.00 1.48

Bud Norris started against the Cubs in the second game of that dreadful seven-game losing streak in late July/early August, on July 28 in Houston. Four Cub players who played in that game (Ryan Theriot, Brian Schlitter, Bob Howry and Mike Fontenot) aren't even on the team any more, and two others (Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome) aren't likely to play tonight -- Norris is likely to see a very different-looking Cubs team. That game is his only career start vs. the Cubs. He hasn't had a good year overall, but his ERA in Houston (4.54) is almost a run lower than on the road (5.47). He has, though, allowed more HR (12) at home than away (6), in almost the same number of innings.

Casey Coleman started against the Astros on September 6 in Wrigley Field, and threw six decent innings -- had only one bad inning, the second. He still issued too many walks that day, though he has improved his command and control with each start. Over his last three starts he has a 2.84 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 19 innings. If he can keep that going today, he'll have a real shot at the #5 spot in the rotation next year.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Houston. 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 Astros site Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT and the overflows will post at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.