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Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals preview, Friday 8/10, 1:20 CT

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These two teams have not met in the regular season in more than a full calendar year.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the Cubs hitters are performing around their career norms. (Pitchers ... well, that’s another story.)

Two Cubs hitters who have been in slumps lately are Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr.

Russell’s .366 SLG is more than 40 points below his career SLG coming into 2018 and since July 4, he is hitting .204/.274/.262 (21-for-103) with 21 strikeouts.

Almora, after being among the league leaders in BA for much of the first half, is hitting .200/.222/.229 (14-for-70) since July 9.

If these two would get going, I’d think most of the complaints about the Cubs offense would vanish.

Pitching, too, has been an issue since the All-Star break. Cubs pitchers have allowed 107 runs in the 21 games since the ASB, although 28 of those can be accounted for in two games (the 18-5 blowout to the Cardinals on July 20 and the 10-6 loss to the Padres last Sunday). That’s the second-most runs allowed by any N.L. team since the break. Fortunately for the Cubs, the most runs allowed since the break is 110, by the Brewers.

The Cubs seem to have addressed the pitching issue, in part, by the acquisitions of Cole Hamels, Brandon Kintzler and Jesse Chavez, but others are going to have to step up. Hopefully, that begins this afternoon.

Also today, the Cubs get their first look at 19-year-old Nats rookie Juan Soto, who’s taken the league by storm. Here’s a good article from the Washington Post on Soto and how he got to be this good, this young.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Nationals lineup:

Kyle Hendricks, RHP vs. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Hendricks keeps showing signs he’s back to the old Kyle, and then he has one bad inning (as in his last start) and the overall numbers don’t look great.

I am, however, most encouraged by the fact that over his last seven starts, Kyle has issued only five walks in 40⅔ innings. That’s really good, and only four home runs over that span. The 3.76 ERA, again, doesn’t really reflect his good pitching, which hopefully continues today.

Kyle’s last regular-season start against the Nats was August 4, 2017 at Wrigley Field: seven innings, five hits, three runs. I’d take one of those today, thankyouverymuch.

Just imagine, if you will, that the Cubs had signed Jeremy Hellickson this offseason, instead of Tyler Chatwood.

Nah, maybe you better not, because Hellickson is having the year we hoped Chatwood would have. And Hellickson is familiar to Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, having pitched five years for them for the Rays from 2010-14.

Oh, well. Water under the bridge, etc. Hellickson missed a few weeks in June with a hamstring injury, and he hasn’t been quite as good since his return (5.14 ERA, 1.314 WHIP), but one of the things he does well is not walk hitters, which would be a refreshing change on this team. He’s got a 1.5 per nine innings walk rate, which if you multiply it by five you still wouldn’t get to Chatwood’s walk rate.

Sigh. Hellickson last faced the Cubs May 2, 2017 when he was with the Phillies, and they hit him pretty well: eight hits, two walks, six runs in four innings, including home runs by Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber. I’d like to order up one just like that for today, please.

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and Washington markets).

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball. If you do go there to interact with Nationals 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.

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.