TORONTO -- The Cubs and Blue Jays are like the proverbial ships passing in the night. They have met three times, twice in Cubs division-winning years (2003 and 2008) and once when neither team was relevant (2005). The Jays, in fact, have been an afterthought most of the time since their last World Series appearance in 1992, which is also their last playoff year. They were supposed to be a serious contender this year, and occupied first place in the A.L. East from late May through early July.
They're still in contention, sort of; they've got an outside shot at the second wild card, but they need to start winning right now. The Cubs, who seriously hurt the Brewers' postseason hopes, would love to put the Jays' season to bed, in this final interleague series for the Cubs this year. The Cubs are 9-8 so far in interleague play, so a series win would also mean a winning interleague record for the second straight season (they were, inexplicably, 13-5 vs. the A.L. in the 96-loss mess that was 2013).
Overall in the three series, the Blue Jays have won five games and the Cubs four; the Cubs took two of three in their last visit to Canada in 2008.
And what's the deal with the game time at :07? Cubs games scheduled for :05 after the hour often have the first pitch at :07 after, and no one really notices. Unless the :07 thing is a sponsored time, there's no real reason to not have it as :05. Josh emailed me that they leave the extra two minutes to sing both National Anthems, but couldn't they just start two minutes earlier?
One thing I know I'm grateful for in this series: being able to attend three games without worrying about the weather.
Please check out Russ La Croix' excellent series preview if you have not already done so.
Finally, 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.
On to today's particulars.
Coghlan LF, Baez SS, Valbuena DH, Soler RF, Castillo C, Olt 1B, Alcantara CF, Watkins 2B, Valaika 3B
Today it's Luis Valbuena serving as DH. I'm guessing we'll see Jorge Soler at that spot before this series is over.
Reyes SS, Bautista RF, Encarnacion DH, Lind 1B, Navarro C, Valencia 3B, Pillar LF, Goins 2B, Gose CF
Today's Starting Pitchers
Interestingly enough, for a pitcher who was in the American League for two years and then in the N.L. East for two more, Jacob Turner has never faced the Blue Jays and has faced just a handful of players on their active roster (4-for-17, one home run by Juan Francisco). Turner was solid in his last start, showing some of the form that made him the Tigers' No. 1 pick in 2009. Keep up the good work.
When the Cubs were shopping around Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, Toronto was rumored to be one of the landing spots for one or both and one of the pitchers many people here wanted in return was Marcus Stroman. Tonight, we'll all get to see him pitch for the Blue Jays, where he's put up pretty good numbers in 22 appearances (17 starts) this year. Since he was moved to the rotation after the five relief outings, he's posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.158 WHIP and that includes two consecutive starts last month in which he combined for 11 runs allowed in five innings. He's good, obviously, and has never faced the Cubs nor anyone on the roster.
This is a really intriguing matchup between two young pitchers, both 23 years old, who could be among MLB's best over the next few years.
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.