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Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals preview, Friday 6/15, 7:15 CT

Another important divisional series for the Cubs begins tonight.

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Bryant has had nearly three days without playing, as he last played Tuesday night, and sat on Wednesday. With the off day Thursday, perhaps this will get him back on track.

In thinking about KB’s slump, I wondered if maybe being hit on the head in Colorado might have had an effect on his power, which has now reached the longest homerless drought of his career. The beaning happened April 22 in Colorado.

Before: .319/.467/.536 (22-for-69), two home runs
After: .265/.353/.457 (43-for-162), six home runs

Well. It would seem that something is going on since the beaning — all those numbers are down, although the home-run rate is roughly the same.

In The Athletic ($) today, Sahadev Sharma says that’s not likely the case, though:

Some wonder whether Bryant getting hit by a pitch to the head in Colorado has something to do with it. But in the 15 games after he returned from that beaning, Bryant slugged .644 with a crazy .407 ISO. Others wonder if new hitting coach Chili Davis has done something to change Bryant’s swing and keep him from driving the ball.

The Davis thing doesn’t seem likely, as he was hitting just fine beforehand. Sharma writes that Bryant simply isn’t getting good pitches to hit, is swinging at pitches out of the zone, and hasn’t yet adjusted. His conclusion:

Essentially, Bryant is doing exactly what pitchers want him to do. In order to reverse this trend, he’s going to have to stop chasing those pitches and force the opposition to give him more fastballs in the zone. Once that happens, a power surge should come as well. Bryant has never been one to chase bad pitches for too long of a stretch, so it’s not hard to see him coming out of this slump in short order.

This seems correct. Hopefully, the three days off will allow him to reset and hit like the Bryant we’ve known for the last three years.

Not a moment too soon, too. The Cubs could use that.

Here are today’s particulars:

Cubs lineup:

Cardinals lineup:

Jon Lester, LHP vs. Michael Wacha, RHP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This is a top-notch pitching matchup. Both are having excellent seasons.

Jon Lester has already started twice against the Cardinals this year. May 6 in St. Louis, his opponent was Michael Wacha. That day, Lester allowed two runs in 5⅓ innings... and so did Wacha. This was the game that Dexter Fowler won with a two-run walkoff homer in the 14th inning after the Cubs had taken the lead.

Anyway, in the other game Lester threw vs. the Cardinals, April 19 at Wrigley Field, he allowed just two hits and one unearned run in six solid innings. And since May 6, Lester has been outstanding: 1.63 ERA, 0.853 WHIP in six starts covering 38⅔ innings. Current Cardinals are hitting .238 (45-for-189) against Lester with seven home runs, three of them by Jedd Gyorko.

The May 6 game is Wacha’s only start vs. the Cubs this year. Since then his numbers are almost identical to Lester’s: 1.64 ERA, 0.795 WHIP in six starts covering 39 innings. Current Cubs are hitting .315 (53-for-168) against Wacha with 11 home runs, three of them by Anthony Rizzo.

So — if you’re wondering where the Cubs offense went, it could be at the expense of some pretty good pitching. I’d expect another low-scoring game tonight.

Today’s game is on ABC7 Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and St. Louis 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.