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Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays preview, Tuesday 7/4, 1:20 CT

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The Cubs open up a six-game homestand that will lead into the All-Star break.

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Fourth!

This would seem to be an important homestand for the Cubs. They've got a chance to get to the All-Star break in first place, and with players coming back from the DL, this would be a great time to put together a winning streak.

Let's start today, shall we?

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Jay LF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist 2B, Happ CF, Heyward RF, Contreras C, Russell SS, Lester P

Rays lineup:

Souza RF, Dickerson LF, Longoria 3B, Ramos C, Plouffe 1B, Beckham 2B, Hechavarria SS, Bourjos CF, Archer P

Jon Lester vs. Chris Archer

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs shifted around their rotation so that Jon Lester could throw in this game, presumably giving them a better shot against Chris Archer. This was a good idea; it also sets up Lester to start Sunday, and then open the second half a week from Friday in Baltimore.

Lester has been much better at home this year (2.68 ERA, 1.018 WHIP in nine starts) than on the road (4.96 ERA, 1.500 WHIP in eight starts), so it's a good idea to have him throw at Wrigley more often.

Jon has 28 career starts against the Rays, but of course all of them were while he was in the same division as they were, as a Red Sox starter. Even so, he has a long track record against many of their players, as current Rays are 30-for-133 (.226) against him with five homers, three of those by Evan Longoria.

The swap is good for another reason: the Rays have not been good vs. LH starters this year, just 9-16.

Chris Archer, the subject of many desires of Cubs fans for a trade here, has been good this year. Not "ace" good, just good. And recently, he's been... not good. Over his last four starts he's posted a 4.88 ERA and 1.417 WHIP, with six home runs allowed in 24 innings. He will give you innings -- he's thrown at least six in 14 of 17 starts this year.

The last time he faced the Cubs was the last time the Rays were at Wrigley, August 8, 2014. He threw six innings and allowed two runs (one earned). But look at that boxscore -- most of the Cubs in that lineup aren't on the team anymore. Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo, who both went 1-for-3 in that game, are the only current Cubs who have faced him.

Today's game is on WGN.

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.