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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Astros Series Preview

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Here's an old rival we haven't seen in a while.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs last played the Astros three years ago, and the last time they were in Houston was four years ago. As such, I thought you'd like to know more about them as they are now, so I asked Ryan Dunsmore, managing editor of our SB Nation Astros site The Crawfish Boxes, to tell us about his team.

It feels like home again to the Astros playing the Cubs. There is something about the AL West that hasn't stuck yet, maybe it's all the games that start after 9 p.m. The Astros and Cubs have gone in the opposite direction since they last met, from 100-loss seasons to consistent playoff contenders.

But unlike the Cubs the Astros have hit a snag in the road and some decisions have come back to bite them in the butt. Those decisions can be personified by the Cubs: trading away Dexter Fowler, giving up Dan Straily, and drafting Mark Appel over Kris Bryant. The Astros have had questions at the center field position and third base because Luis Valbuena and Carlos Gomez never fully panned out. The Astros thankfully appears to have nailed their Alex Bregman pick, so Houston has been able to coast on his ability the last few weeks.

Unlike Jake Arrieta, the 2015 AL Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel hasn't lived up to last year's form and so has created a void at the top of the Astros rotation. The injury bug has hit the Astros' second best pitcher, Lance McCullers, leaving Houston fitting the pieces together.

A 7-17 April and a 3-13 record against the Rangers have put the Astros' playoff chances in doubt. So there is plenty of talent on the Astros roster and the future is still bright -- but it appears 2016 won't be the year they break out.

Fun fact

The last time these teams met was at Wrigley Field June 23, 2013. Looking through that boxscore should amuse you whether you're a Cubs fan or an Astros fan. Things are much better for both teams.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jon Lester, LHP (15-4, 2.61 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 3.65 FIP) vs. Joe Musgrove, RHP (2-3, 5.06 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, 4.52 FIP)

Saturday: John Lackey, RHP (9-7, 3.36 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, 3.68 FIP) vs. Collin McHugh, RHP (9-10, 4.96 ERA, 1.510 WHIP, 4.17 FIP)

Sunday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (16-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.046 WHIP, 3.42 FIP) vs. Mike Fiers, RHP (10-6, 4.29 ERA, 1.349 WHIP, 4.55 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 7:10 p.m. CT, WGN

Saturday: 12:05 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional -- coverage map)

Sunday: 7:05 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

I keep picking two of three. Many times I'm right! Sometimes (as in the Brewers series) I wind up being wrong. I don't really have any basis here because the Cubs haven't seen the Astros in such a long time and I'm just not that familiar with their players. The Astros have been really streaky since the beginning of August -- they lost six of seven, then won four in a row, then lost five straight, then won four more in a row, and since that streak have won nine of 14.

I'll stick with two of three due to favorable pitching matchups.

Up next

The Cubs head to St. Louis for a three-game series against the Cardinals beginning Monday night.