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Cubs vs. Angels at Mesa preview, Friday 3/9, 2:05 CT

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The Cubs go for their fifth consecutive victory.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, ArizonaIn this long article about the Astros’ busy offseason after their World Series win, there’s a quote from Houston starter Dallas Keuchel that will likely wind up on a bulletin board at Sloan Park and/or Wrigley Field:

“We’re not the Cubs,” Keuchel fired back when presented with that example. “I firmly believe we have better players.”

Well. There’s no doubt that the Astros have some really good players — Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer, among others. They won 101 games in 2017 and are the defending World Series champions. Give them all the credit they deserve for that achievement.

Keuchel’s comment can be read in a couple of ways. First, it’s just a little bit of boasting/trash talking that athletes often do. Of course he’s going to think that his own teammates who just won the championship are “better” than another team’s. Second, though, is the implication that the Astros won’t suffer the “World Series hangover” that seemed to have affected the Cubs in the first half of 2017. And that’s not just the Cubs, either; there’s a reason no team has repeated as WS champion since the 1999-2000 Yankees. It’s a really, really hard thing to do.

Getting back to the Fall Classic is by no means guaranteed. Just ask the 102-win 2017 Indians how much that A.L.-best record meant once they got to October in terms of getting back to the World Series.

The Astros, no doubt, have a fine team and they could very well repeat as American League champions and return to the World Series. A matchup with the Cubs in October 2018 would be a great one.

And the Cubs match up pretty well in the “better players” category, I think.

Fun fact of the day! Cubs spring record at home this year: 6-0-2. Cubs spring record on the road this year: 4-2.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Heyward DH, Almora CF, Rizzo 1B, Schwarber LF, Gimenez C, La Stella 3B, Bourjos RF, Freeman SS, Bote 2B

Angels lineup:

Fletcher SS, Valbuena 3B, Maldonado C, Carter 1B, Liriano LF, Young RF, Perez DH, Cowart 2B, Hermosillo CF

No Shohei Ohtani in this game — he pitched in an Angels “B” game at their Tempe spring complex earlier this morning.

Jon Lester gets the start for the Cubs. Cubs relievers today: Brian Duensing, Brandon Morrow, Oscar De La Cruz and Justin Hancock.

Matt Shoemaker will go for the Angels.

Today’s game is on cubs.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. TV coverage on MLB.tv is via the Angels network Fox Sports West. It will be on MLB Network on a one-hour delay beginning at 3 p.m. CT.

MLB.com Gameday

Please note that during spring training, Gameday doesn't usually go pitch-by-pitch as it does during the regular season -- usually, it will update after each at-bat.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

Please visit our SB Nation Angels site Halos Heaven. If you do go there to interact with Angels 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.

For spring-training games, we'll have a first-pitch thread at five minutes to game time and one overflow thread, 90 minutes after game time (because I know how you all like overflow threads!). For today, that will be 2 p.m. CT and 3:30 p.m. CT.

These threads will not post individually onto the front page; instead, you can find links to them in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page. There will also be a StoryStream on the front page with all the game thread links, as well as the recap after the game is over. The pitcher boxes and regular-season stats will return on Opening Day.

Discuss amongst yourselves.