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Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals Preview, Friday 6/3, 7:15 CT: The Trip That Will Tell

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Even for an optimist like me, this has been a difficult time to be a Cubs fan. The recent homestand, especially the series against the Pirates and Astros, have been brutally bad. The Cubs have played like a Triple-A team... essentially, because they're putting a Triple-A team on the field most days due to injuries.

A MLB team can't use injuries as an excuse. This weekend's opponent, the Cardinals, has had nearly as many injuries to important contributors and yet, they are in first place, something few expected them to accomplish this year.

There are some who expect the Cubs to lose all 10 games on this trip. That's unlikely, though a soberingly bad thought. Sometimes, teams that are struggling raise their game against better teams. At the very least, the Cubs have Ryan Dempster, who had a very good month of May, on the mound tonight, against Jaime Garcia, who got clobbered in his last start.

It can't get worse than right now. (Right?)

And besides the pitching woes, here are some numbers that go a long way toward explaining the Cubs' problems this year:

@STATS_MLB-#Cubs bat .321 to lead off inngs, .287 w/no one on - tops MLB. They hit .255 w/men on-14th MLB. W/RISP Cubs hit .233, 25th MLB.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Cubs lineup:

RF Fukudome, 2B Barney, SS Castro, C Soto, 1B Pena, LF Montanez, CF Colvin, 3B LeMahieu, P Dempster

First MLB start for DJ LeMahieu.

Cardinals lineup:

Theriot SS, Jay LF, Pujols 1B, Berkman RF, Rasmus CF, Molina C, Schumaker 2B, Descalso 3B, Garcia P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Jaime Garcia
Jaime Garcia
Cardinals
4-4 W-L 5-1
6.00 ERA 3.28
62 SO 63
25 BB 17
11 HR 4
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Ryan Dempster 4-4 12 12 0 0 0 0 69.0 78 47 46 11 25 62 6.00 1.49


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jaime Garcia 5-1 11 11 2 2 0 0 68.2 65 32 25 4 17 63 3.28 1.19

Jaime Garcia, one of the top lefties in baseball, dominated the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 12. Current Cubs are hitting .233 (7-for-30) against him. On the other hand, the Rockies blasted him for 11 hits and 11 earned runs in just 3.1 innings in his last start. Can the Cubs do the same? Probably not, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Ryan Dempster did not face the Cardinals in the recent Wrigley Field series; last year, in three starts vs. St. Louis, he had a win, a loss and a no-decision in posting a 4.87 ERA in 20.1 innings. While Dempster's season ERA is still in orbit, it is illuminating to note that in six May starts, he had a 3.08 ERA and gave up just two HR in 38 innings; Garcia, in the same number of May starts, posted a 4.23 ERA in 38.1 innings (although most of those runs were given up in that start against the Rockies). Just saying that this isn't as much of a mismatch as it might appear at first.

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Midwest. Outside the Chicago and St. Louis areas, it's also available on the MLB Network. 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 Cardinals site Viva el Birdos.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7:15 p.m. CDT and the overflow threads will post at 8:15 pm, 9:15 pm and 10 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.