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Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals preview, Thursday 6/29, 3:05 CT

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With a win today, the Cubs will split their series in Washington.

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's weird to think that the .500 Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the time tonight's action is over.

But that's where we are in this wacky season. As I wrote earlier today, I'll certainly take a split in this series. The Cubs were last tied for first place after they beat the Marlins 10-2 on June 6, the last of a season-high five-game winning streak.

Since then, here's how the N.L. Central teams have done:

Brewers 10-10
Pirates 9-10
Cubs 9-11
Cardinals 9-11
Reds 5-14

Still plenty of time in this season left for the Cubs to go on a winning streak and take over the division.

In case you have not been keeping track, here are all the .500 records the Cubs have had this year: 1-1, 2-2, 6-6, 7-7, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 19-19, 25-25, 27-27, 30-30, 31-31, 32-32, 33-33 and 39-39.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Jay LF, Happ RF, Rizzo 1B, Contreras C, Russell SS, Candelario 3B, Almora CF, Baez 2B, Lester P

Nationals lineup:

Turner SS, Raburn LF, Harper RF, Zimmerman 1B, Murphy 2B, Rendon 3B, Wieters C, Taylor CF, Ross P

Jon Lester vs. Joe Ross

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Looking for positivity, I note that Jon Lester has a 2.70 ERA and 0.850 WHIP over his last three starts, with 21 strikeouts and just three walks in 20 innings. In general he's been the Cubs' most consistent starter all year, with just a handful of clunkers.

He has not faced the Nationals since May 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field, where he threw seven innings, struck out 10 and allowed just one earned run.

This will be just the second time in Lester's career that he's pitched in Nationals Park. The last time was back in 2009, so it's largely irrelevant to today's game.

Here's hoping Lester has one of his good games today.

Joe Ross got off to a bad start this year, but he's been better lately: 3.12 ERA and 0.615 WHIP over his last four starts. He faced the Cubs once last year, May 5 at Wrigley Field, and allowed two runs in 6⅔ innings.

Ross made his major-league debut against the Cubs May 6, 2015 at Nationals Park. He threw reasonably well that day, three runs in five innings. Anthony Rizzo had a couple of hits off him.

Given the numbers above we might expect a pitchers' duel this afternoon.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and Washington markets).

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

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The 2017 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2016. 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.

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Discuss amongst yourselves.