The last time the Cubs played the Cardinals was more than two months ago, May 15 in St. Louis. No fewer than four Cubs who played in that game (Ryan Kalish, Mike Olt, Jason Hammel and Jose Veras) aren't on the team now.
So it's a very different Cubs team that's going to face a Cardinals club that has struggled at times this year. That's different, too, from the St. Louis team that has made the playoffs in 10 of the last 14 seasons. Still, with all their difficulties this year, they stand just three games out of first place. The Cubs should have such problems.
The Cubs are 4-5 against St. Louis this year, which is their best record against any N.L. Central rival -- they're 12-23 against the other three teams in the division. That seems to be a common pattern -- no matter how good or bad either team is in this rivalry, they play each other pretty evenly most years (the Cubs are 95-98 against the Cardinals since 2003).
So I look for this to be a good series, well-played. It would be nice to win one at home, too, as the Cubs have not won any of their last five home sets. Let's hope so, as the Cubs finished Game No. 100 of 2014 at 41-59, a .410 winning percentage that would translate to 96 losses over a full season.
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On to today's particulars.
Coghlan LF, Alcantara 2B, Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Castillo C, Sweeney CF, Schierholtz RF, Wood P
Carpenter 3B, Peralta SS, Holliday LF, Adams 1B, Craig RF, Jay CF, Ellis 2B, Cruz C, Kelly P
The Cardinals have outdone themselves. In their lineup today are four players with two first names (Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Mark Ellis, Joe Kelly) and two more who are close to that (Matt Adams, Tony Cruz).
Today's Starting Pitchers
Let's face it, Travis Wood has been bad this year (or at least, bad since he had a good April). He did have one of his better starts against the Cardinals, May 2 at Wrigley Field, allowing two earned runs in seven innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. The "no walks" was the key -- Wood has had trouble with command in more recent outings, walking 31 in 51⅓ innings since June 1. If he can keep the ball in the zone, he should be able to go back to his success from last year.
Joe Kelly spent almost three months on the DL this year with a hamstring problem. One of his starts this year before the injury was against the Cubs, April 11 in St. Louis, where he allowed just six hits and an unearned run in six innings in a game the Cubs won in extra innings. Kelly's last start, July 19 against the Dodgers, was better -- four hits and one run in seven innings. We're probably doomed.
Today's game is on WGN.
For 2014, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as 2013. Here's how it works.
You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.
You will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at five minutes before game time (moved up from actual game time per your requests), then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.