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Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves preview, Thursday 5/17, 6:35 CT

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This is the last Cubs/Braves game of 2018... unless the teams meet in the postseason.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs are 22-18, two games out of first place, and one back in the loss column. For some, this has meant “the sky is falling” and ledge-jumping.

Let’s look at that record in a bit more detail, along with the records of the three other over-.500 teams in the N.L. Central.

Cubs 2018 record vs. teams currently over .500: 14-13
Cubs 2018 record vs. teams currently at/under .500: 8-5

Cardinals 2018 record vs. teams currently over .500: 8-9
Cardinals 2018 record vs. teams currently at/under .500: 15-8

Brewers 2018 record vs. teams currently over .500: 10-14
Brewers 2018 record vs. teams currently at/under .500: 16-4

Pirates 2018 record vs. teams currently over .500: 8-8
Pirates 2018 record vs. teams currrently at/under .500: 17-9

So... first, the Cubs have played more games against over-.500 teams than any of their three division rivals, far more in the case of the Cardinals and Pirates, and are the only one of the four with a winning mark against those teams. The Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers have fattened up their W/L records against bad teams (examples: Pirates 9-1 vs. White Sox and Tigers; Cardinals 9-0 vs. White Sox and Reds; Brewers 10-1 vs. Reds, Royals and Padres).

Thus when the schedule switches around and the Cubs get a “break” (which could happen this weekend) and the other N.L. Central teams play teams with winning records, the Cubs will get their chance to break away from the pack.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

(Note: I split this into “over .500” and “at/under .500” because the Cubs and Cardinals both have played games vs. the Indians, who are at .500 entering today’s games. Wouldn’t have made any difference, really, if I had done it the other way, as both the Cubs and Cardinals are 1-1 vs. the Indians. The Giants are also exactly at .500 entering today, but the only one of the four teams that’s played them so far are the Pirates, who are 2-1 against them.)

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Braves lineup:

Jon Lester, LHP vs. Max Fried, LHP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester, last five starts: 1.82 ERA, 1.146 WHIP. After a bit of a rough start, Jon’s been really good this year.

Jon was the starter in the very first game the Cubs played in SunTrust Park, July 17, 2017. He threw seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and one run. He also had a hit and drew a walk in that game, for whatever that’s worth.

Since Jon came to the Cubs, in fact, he’s pitched very well in Atlanta, where he makes his winter home. Including last year’s game: three starts, 21⅓ innings, 0.563 WHIP, 0.42 ERA (that’s right, just one earned run in those three starts). In fact, in the game he threw against the Braves in Atlanta in 2015, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

The Cubs could use one of those outstanding Lester outings tonight.

Braves rookie Mike Soroka was supposed to start this game, but:

Max Fried was the Padres’ first-round pick in 2012 (seventh overall, picked right after Albert Almora Jr.) and came to the Braves in 2014 in the deal that sent Justin Upton to San Diego.

He’s made four relief appearances this season in between stints in the minors, and last year he made nine appearances (four starts) for the Braves. One of those starts was against the Cubs, September 3, 2017 at Wrigley Field. He had a good outing, allowing one run in five innings. The run was a solo homer by Ian Happ, who’s in the lineup tonight.

The Cubs are 7-4 vs. LH starters this year, so there’s that.

Today’s game is on WGN. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and Atlanta markets).

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

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The 2018 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2017. 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.

Discuss amongst yourselves.