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Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays preview, Wednesday 7/5, 1:20 CT

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The Cubs seek a split with the Rays, then say "See you in September."

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Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

So far this year, the Cubs have been almost the epitome of a .500 ballclub. They haven't been more than four games over .500 or two games under .500 all season -- and since May 27 haven't been more than two games over or two games under the break-even mark.

It's time to get this talented club playing better and go on a long winning streak. Whatever it takes.

A few more notes:

  • The Cubs bullpen has a 3.30 ERA for the season. That ranks third in the National League.
  • After striking out six on Tuesday, Jon Lester stands 29 strikeouts short of 2,000 for his career. His next start will be Sunday against the Pirates.
  • After scoring first and losing Tuesday, the Cubs are just 26-18 when they score first. The loss also made them 34-14 when scoring four or more runs.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Contreras C, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist RF, Happ LF, Almora CF, Baez 2B, Russell SS, Lackey P

Rays lineup:

Smith CF, Dickerson LF, Longoria 3B, Morrison 1B, Souza RF, Beckham 2B, Hechavarria SS, Sucre C, Snell P

John Lackey vs. Blake Snell

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

All there really is to say about John Lackey is: I hope he's got something left in the tank, because after two decent starts he got hit hard in his last outing. He leads the major leagues in home runs allowed, which isn't a good look for a pitcher with Wrigley as his home park, although this year has made no difference as far as HR -- he's got 12 allowed both home and away.

Like his teammate Jon Lester, Lackey made plenty of starts vs. the Rays when he was in the A.L., 24 of them, though also like Lester, none since 2014. Current members of the Rays are hitting .298 (31-for-104) against him with four home runs, two of those by Evan Longoria, who's 14-for-40 (.350) lifetime vs. Lackey.

Blake Snell made 19 starts for the Rays last year and was pretty decent -- 3.54 ERA, 0.8 bWAR, though with a high walk rate, 5.2/nine innings.

His walk rate is even higher this year, 5.7 per nine, and he got hit hard enough in three May starts that he got demoted to Triple-A. Recalled last week, he wasn't good in his start against the Pirates (five innings, four hits, five walks, six earned runs.

Obviously, he's never faced the Cubs or anyone on the current roster. Let's hope that by the end of the day the Cubs will have given him a high ERA against them.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago.

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.