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Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals preview, Thursday 7/19, 6:05 CT

The Cubs get back to the business of trying to win the N.L. Central.

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s say the Cubs could get the following players for their second-half push:

  • A rotation starter who’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball over the last five seasons, with significant postseason experience.
  • A lefthanded power hitter who’s been consistently in the 30-homer, 100-RBI club for the last four years
  • A former MVP who’s got righthanded power and has consistently improved over the course of his career

Those would be pretty good acquisitions, right?

The Cubs already have all three of those players: Yu Darvish, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. All are having down years for various reasons. If Darvish returns healthy, Rizzo comes back to form and Bryant is again productive, the Cubs shouldn’t have to make any deals before the trading deadline other than perhaps to strengthen the bench and bullpen.

As Jed Hoyer said a few weeks ago:

“As far as the deadline goes, I don’t think it necessarily changes what we’re looking for,” Hoyer said. “I think we still feel as though this team is really capable and has a chance to be really good, and we feel like the answers are internal. But we’ll obviously try to stay nimble and if something happens on our team or there’s some reason we feel like we need to upgrade a certain position or add to a certain position, I feel like we have the ability to do that. But this year feels different from some in that I really do feel like this team as constructed is capable of doing a lot of really good things. I think that most of the answers are in that clubhouse.”

Obviously, there aren’t any guarantees the above will all happen. Darvish, for one, is “weeks away,” according to pitching coach Jim Hickey.

But then, there aren’t any from trades, either. Remember last year’s deadline deal? That brought Alex Avila and Justin Wilson for Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes. Avila was somewhat useful before departing via free agency. Wilson, who had been solid for the Tigers, was awful, so much so that he was left off postseason rosters. Wilson’s been better this year, but the point is that you never know from trades.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Cardinals lineup:

Kyle Hendricks, RHP vs. Carlos Martinez, RHP

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

Kyle Hendricks had a stretch of seven starts from May 30 through June 3 in which he posted a 6.29 ERA and 1.660 WHIP, with six home runs allowed in 34⅓ innings.

His other 12 starts this year: 2.84 ERA, 0.987 WHIP, 11 home runs in 76 innings. The home runs are a bit high in that latter group, but otherwise those numbers are closer to the Hendricks we’ve known over the past three years.

It’s almost as if someone had tried to change that Hendricks. Oh, wait. Someone did, wrote Sahadev Sharma in The Athletic back in March:

[Pitching coach Jim] Hickey explained that while he’d be happy to have the version of Hendricks the Cubs have seen over the last two seasons, he also understood the impact a strong breaking ball could do for him.

“If I’m a hitter and I know he’s got a fastball and changeup and no breaking ball, it makes my job a little easier,” Hickey said. “If you can go ahead and all of a sudden get your third strike on a curveball that guys have never seen before, it won’t take long before guys have to guard against that pitch as well.”

I think the version of Hendricks we had for the last couple of years was just fine, where he generally used his changeup as his out pitch. He appears to have gone back to that over his last two starts. Let’s keep it that way.

Carlos Martinez missed a month earlier this season with a lat strain, and the Cubs hit him pretty hard June 16 in St. Louis, including drawing six walks in five innings. He had a couple of other rough outings after his return from the DL, but his last four starts have been pretty good: 2.63 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, only one home run in 24 innings.

Wrigley Field has not been one of his favorite places to pitch, though, as he has a career 4.46 ERA and 1.486 WHIP in 11 appearances (five starts) there. Here’s hoping the Cubs take advantage of the home field tonight.

Today’s game is on ESPN. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, Alex Rodriguez, Jessica Mendoza and Buster Olney.

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.

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