Monday, April 11, 2011

Cubs Travel to Houston

In theory, the Cubs series against the Astros should be one of the few times this season that the Cubs are the better team. For all their faults, the Cubs aren't close to the hot mess that Houston is. The Astros boast a terrible lineup, both on paper and in real life. To make matters worse, they will play this season without their young catcher Jason Castro, who tore his ACL in spring training.

The Cubs are coming off a tough series loss in Milwaukee, while the Astros just finished losing two of three to the Florida Marlins.

In game one, the Cubs will send Ryan Dempster out to face Houston's fifth starter Nelson Figueroa. Dempster will be making his third start of the season, and is still looking for his first quality outing. He couldn't command his pitches on opening day, and in his second start he gave up a number of extra base hits to a weak Diamondbacks lineup.

Considering the Cubs' current problems in the back of the rotation, they really need Dempster to have a long, quality outing tonight. The bullpen is going to be asked to do a lot tomorrow, and Mike Quade had to use four guys on Sunday after Casey Coleman went only five innings.

Against a weak lineup full of right handed hitters, Demspter shouldn't have too much trouble.

The Cubs offense should enjoy an easy night as well. The Reds lineup (admittedly, they are in a different class) scored six runs against Figueroa in his first start of the season. He's a fly-ball pitcher facing a team that tends to be feast or famine with the home run ball.

This would be a good night for Carlos Pena to get on track, and given the way Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd, and Aramis have been hitting lately, there should be more than one chance for Pena to drive in some runs tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Quade found a place for Tyler Colvin as well, as this is the kind of pitcher he should have success against.

The next two days could be real problematic for the Cubs, so tonight's game is especially important. The Cubs' number one pitcher against the Astros' number five. Hopefully Ryan Dempster turns in his first quality start of the season tonight, and the Cubs get back to .500 (even if its just for one day).

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