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Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals Preview, Monday 4/18, 7:10 CT

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The Cubs face the Cardinals for the first time since the 2015 division series.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

For us as Cubs fans, this is a "big" series, even though it's only April. That's what happens when you face your team's biggest rival.

For the Cubs players, though, it's just another day at the office, or so says Kris Bryant:

"Just another series," Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. "That's how we treat every series, (playing) a nameless, faceless opponent. That's how we always try to approach things and not really worry about who we're playing."

That's exactly what Joe Maddon has been preaching to his team for the last year-plus. Just go about your business every day, prepare for that specific day's opponent, don't worry about the things fans worry about. It's certainly worked well so far.

One more note: tonight is the 13th game of the season. It's the first game against a team the Cubs didn't already face during spring training. As far as I can tell this is the first time the Cubs have gotten this far into the season without playing a team they didn't already face in spring-training games since 1960.

Here is your once-a-series reminder about SB Nation's daily fantasy partner FanDuel. If you want to play, click this link.

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Fowler CF, Heyward RF, Zobrist 2B, Rizzo 1B, Bryant 3B, Montero C, Soler LF, Russell SS, Lackey P

Cardinals lineup:

Carpenter 3B, Hazelbaker CF, Holliday LF, Moss 1B, Piscotty RF, Molina C, Wong 2B, Diaz SS, Leake P

John Lackey

vs

Mike Leake

John Lackey has had trouble in the first inning in both of his starts, but then settled down and the Cubs won both of the games. This was a problem for him last year, too, as he had a 4.91 ERA in the first inning, a 2.38 ERA in all other innings combined. I'm not sure what causes this issue, but clearly, if he can get past the first inning unscathed, he should be fine. Since Lackey was with the Cardinals, and before that in Boston and Anaheim, he hasn't faced most of the current Cardinals. Only Brandon Moss among active Cardinals players has any real success against him (4-for-8). It'll be interesting to see how St. Louis fans react to him.

Mike Leake has made two starts this year, both rough outings. We are, of course, quite familiar with him from his years in the Reds rotation -- 19 career starts vs. the Cubs with a 3.15 ERA. One current Cub has had success against him -- Anthony Rizzo (10-for-30, .333, two doubles, two home runs).

Today's game is on WPWR. It is also being carried nationally on ESPN.

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. If you do go there to interact with Cardinals fans, please be respectful, abide by their individual site rules and serve as a good representation of Cub fans in general and BCB in particular.

The 2016 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used at the end of 2015. Here's how it works.

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.