What a difference six years make.
The last time these two teams met, at Wrigley Field in 2008, the Cubs were on their way to their best regular season in 70-plus years, a 97-win year. (We'll ignore what happened after October 1, 2008.)
The Orioles, though they were over .500 at the time they visited Wrigley, lost 93 games in 2008, in what would end up as the third of six straight 90-plus loss seasons. Sound familiar?
Baltimore won 93 games and made the postseason in 2012, had a winning year in 2013 and is now in first place in the A.L. East at 73-52, likely headed to another 90-win season and the October tournament.
So things can turn around, and quickly -- the Orioles' 93-win 2012 season was unexpected. But they've built on that and look like they'll be around, contending, for a while. Just like we hope the Cubs will be, soon.
The Cubs haven't visited Baltimore since 2003 and aren't likely to do so, given the way the current schedule is made, until 2017. Meanwhile, the Cubs are 6-8 in interleague play so far this year, with one more series to come (at Toronto next month).
Russ La Croix was unable to do his usual series preview due to his work... you know, his real job. So I'll have as much as possible in the three game previews, but I've added the usual series-preview poll to this post asking how many games you think the Cubs will win this set. Also, here's a pitcher-matchup preview from our SB Nation Orioles site Camden Chat.
Unrelated: here's your once-a-series reminder to check out (if you haven't already) SB Nation's partner fantasy site, Fan Duel, where you can win real money. Here's the link.
Now, on to today's particulars.
Alcantara CF, Baez SS, Rizzo 1B, Valbuena 3B, Coghlan LF, Sweeney RF, Watkins 2B, Baker C, Arrieta P
Hey, look! A Logan Watkins sighting! Maybe he'll show enough in this brief callup to be in the mix for a utility role next year.
The Orioles lineup was not available at the time I wrote this post. Please check the BCB Twitter feed for the Orioles lineup.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Here's what Jake Arrieta had to say about facing the team that drafted him and for whom he played his first four big-league seasons:
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting to face guys I played with for a long time. To now be on the other side, it will be fun. I know (the Orioles) are going to come out and compete the best they possibly can, and I'm sure they expect the same for me."
Hope he doesn't get too amped up, as can sometimes happen in cases like this. After the worst start of his Cubs career (nine earned runs in five innings in Colorado) to start August, Arrieta's been back to his June form in his last two: seven hits and three walks in 14⅓ innings with 13 strikeouts. More of that, please.
Kevin Gausman, the Orioles' first-round pick (fourth overall, two spots ahead of Albert Almora) in 2012, rocketed very quickly to the big leagues. Shaky last year, he's been solid this year at age 23 in 13 starts, in which he's allowed just three home runs in 73 innings. The 29 walks means that if the Cubs can be patient, they might be able to get to him. He's never faced the Cubs nor anyone on their roster.
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.