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Just How Bad Are They? Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Friday 4/16, 1:20 CT

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All of you know that the Astros won their first game of the season yesterday, moving their record to 1-8 and missing by one game tying the worst start in Astros franchise history, 0-9 in 1983.

So the question today is, just how bad is this team? Just how important or unimportant are "starts" like that one? The 0-9 1983 Astros actually finished respectably -- 85-77, in third place in the old NL West, only six games out of first place. The nine-game losing streak was their worst of that year and five of the nine losses were to the Dodgers, who were NL West champions at 91-71 that season.

This year's Astros lost their first eight to the Giants, Phillies and Cardinals, two of whom were playoff teams in 2009; the other one won 87 games in 2009 and is expected to be a contender this year. So it could be said that the Astros had a really tough opening schedule and might not be that bad.

Or maybe they are. In the eight losses they were shut out three times and outscored 44-14, giving up eight or more runs three times. They're missing one of their better hitters, Lance Berkman, and even including yesterday's 5-1 win over the Cardinals, they have hit only two home runs in their nine games (one by Hunter Pence, one by Jason Michaels); by comparison, the Cubs, including yesterday, now have 15.

This series should be ripe for sweeping, or at the very least, winning two of three. And if the bullpen keeps failing -- watch for Andrew Cashner to be recalled.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Silva
Carlos Silva
Cubs
vs. Felipe Paulino
Felipe Paulino
Astros
0-0 W-L 0-0
1.50 ERA 7.20
3 SO 4
0 BB 4
0 HR 0
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carlos Silva 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 0 6.0 3 1 1 0 0 3 1.50 .50


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Felipe Paulino 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 0 5.0 4 4 4 0 4 4 7.20 1.60

Felipe Paulino is 26 years old. Too old to really be a prospect, but the Astros don't have much pitching depth, so here he is in a major league rotation. He made one start vs. the Cubs last year, on September 2 at Wrigley Field, and threw pretty well in a 2-0 Cubs victory. He also made a relief appearance vs. the Cubs earlier last year and got pounded. So, who knows? Current Cubs are 5-for-16 (.313) vs. Paulino; Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano have homered off him.

Carlos Silva has six career games vs. the Astros (one start). None of that is really relevant to today's start, since the five relief appearances were in 2002 and 2003, and the one start -- the last time he faced Houston -- was on June 21, 2006, almost four years ago. He threw pretty well in that one. He has faced only four current Astros; the one he's faced the most is Carlos Lee, who is 8-for-27 (.296) against him.

There's going to be a lot of cable-only this year: CSN Chicago and FSN Houston. Today's game is also being picked up by the MLB Network for national distribution, though. I'm not sure which feed they'll be using. 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 The Crawfish Boxes.

This afternoon's first pitch thread will be up at 1:15 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 2:15, 3:15 and 4 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.