ICYMI last night, the Cubs' closest competition for the second wild-card spot is now the Nationals. Washington defeated the Braves Friday night while the Giants were losing to the Rockies for the second straight day.
That leaves the Nats 7½ games behind the Cubs (elimination number 22) and the Giants eight behind (elimination number 21).
The Nats are facing the Braves again the next two days and Atlanta is probably the worst team in baseball -- they've lost 17 of 18 and 10 in a row. As for the Giants, it's probably too simplistic to blame their slide on the loss of one player, but with Hunter Pence in the starting lineup, they are 34-17. Without: 35-49.
The Cubs simply need to take care of business. Win games and you don't have to worry about the other guy. Incidentally, Friday's Cubs win clinched a winning season at Wrigley Field for this year, the team's 41st home victory of 2015.
Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, Jackson RF, Bryant LF, Rizzo 1B, Baez 3B, Castro 2B, Ross C, Arrieta P, Russell SS
I'm assuming David Ross is catching to get another RH bat in the lineup against lefty Robbie Ray.
Inciarte RF, Pollock CF, Goldschmidt 1B, Peralta LF, Saltalamacchia C, Lamb 3B, Drury 2B, Owings SS, Ray P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Jake Arrieta, since June 21: 14 starts, 1.07 ERA in 101 innings, 23 walks, 101 strikeouts, one HR allowed. Oh, and a no-hitter. He had a decent, not great, start vs. the D'backs in Phoenix on May 23, but that seems a lifetime ago, doesn't it? Keep up the great work, Jake.
Robbie Ray, since the All-Star break: nine starts, 46⅔ innings, 5.40 ERA, 23 walks. Had a 6.00 ERA in six August starts. You get the idea. He's never faced the Cubs, and the three Cubs who have faced him (Chris Denorfia, Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson) are 6-for-11. Sounds like a guy the Cubs ought to be able to hit, hit hard, and hit often.
Today's game is on CSN Chicago.
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The 2015 Game Thread procedure has changed a bit. Here's how it will work going forward.
You'll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream™ containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap 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 the game's StoryStream™ as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.