Monday, August 31, 2009

Cubs-Astros Preview: The Last Chance

This is it Cubs fans, this series right here will tell you optimists all you need to know about this team. The false hope tour has already been a disaster with a 3-3 start, but a 3-0 finish might just salvage it. Of course this Cubs team is incapable of actually beating teams when they need to so it doesn't matter anyway. 

The Houston Astros come to town having just been swept in the airplane hangar formally known as Bank One Ballpark. They are 62-68 14 games out of first and four behind the Cubs in the NL Central. Here are the pitching matchups.

Monday- Rich Harden (8-7 3.99) vs. Roy Oswalt (7-5 3.86)
The best pitching duel of the series happens in the opening game. Oswalt's last start against the Cubs ended early when he left the game with some back pain. Oswalt will be making his fourth start against the Cubs this season, he is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Cubs so far this season. There really isn't a mystery with Roy Oswalt, he is one of the best pitchers in the game when he is healthy.
Rich Harden is in a real nice stretch of pitching right now. This game is occurring at night, and the weather is cool. I fully expect to get the complete Rich Harden experience in this game. Six brilliant innings that include the standard home run in inning three, and another in the fifth. This game is a straight up pitchers duel, there won't be much scoring, and it will more or less come down to whose bullpen blows up first.

Tuesday- Randy Wells (9-7 3.06) vs. Brian Moehler (8-9 5.26)
Baseball is such a strange game. Last season Moehler shut down the Cubs on a few occasions and became my most feared Astro starter. This season the Cubs have pounded him, though he has been better on the road than at home. 
Randy wasn't very good last time out, the team site says he was having issues with his slider, I think he is suffering from having a ton of IP this season. Either way he has not allowed a run in 14 innings against the Astros this season, so hopefully that is the trend that wins out here. The Cubs should pound that Astros in this game and I fully expect them to.

Wednesday- Ted Lilly (9-8 3.35) vs. TBA
You never know what you might get from TBA. He might be a young stud with electric stuff or an old man who is on his last leg.
Ted is Ted. He's awesome. He was brilliant his last start against the Mets, but had to take the no-decision thanks to the Cubs late scoring offense. Ted pitching at home is usually money in the bank and without knowing who the Astros starter is I'll call this one a Cubs win. 

Hitters to watch
Lance Berkman- .276/.404/.507 18 HR 65 RBI
Berkman is one of the best hitters in the game and always a threat at the plate. Berkman is usually one of the top MVP candidates in the game, but the Astros down season and his injuries have prevented him from being the star he usually is. Not that a .911 OPS is something to be ashamed about.

Carlos Lee- .307/.353/.497 21 HR 81 RBI
No matter Lee's stats he is the number 1 threat to the Cubs in this and every series. Just like Adam Dunn hitting at least one homer is standard, Lee hitting at least one in a Wrigley series is too. He might get two or three. The hope here is that he always comes up with nobody on-base which would reduce the damage he can do.

Miguel Tejada- .303/.332/.433 10 HR 69 RBI
Tejada is a hit and swing machine. He doesn't like to take walks, but he can still rack up hits. I won't insult him too much since the Cubs might get him in free agency this season, but Tejada is very capable of getting himself out and likes to swing. The Cubs pitchers should be able to take advantage of that.

For the third series in a row I'll predict a sweep. If Harden wins game 1 it should be a sure thing. Even the most optimistic of fan sees this as the last hope, I see a sunk ship that is briefly resurfacing only to hit another iceberg in New York this weekend. 

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