Cubs-Astros Preview: April 16-19

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Cubs-Astros Preview: April 16-19
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The Cubs (4-5) missed out on a sweep against the Brewers Thursday, but another sweep-worthy team, the Houston Astros, comes to town starting today at 1:20 p.m.

The offensively challenged Astros (1-8) got their first win of the season against St. Louis yesterday, but the Cubs should have no problem getting back on the winning track with a three-game weekend series against the ‘Stros.

The Cubs went 11-6 against Houston in 2009. In fact, the only team in the NL Central the Cubs didn’t have a winning record against in ’09 was the Cardinals.

Home cooking: So far, so good at Wrigley Field for the Cubbies. Balls have been flying out of the Friendly Confines at a record pace, but Cubs hitters would be wise to start manufacturing some of their runs. The wind is not always going to be so kind.

Twenty-five of the team’s 40 runs have been scored via the home run—that’s 62.5 percent. Usually, the leading team is around the 40-45 percent mark by the end of the year.

If the early games are any indication, the Cubs look to be the favorite to lead all teams with runs scored from the long ball—not always indicative of a sound group of hitters.

But hey, home run-heavy teams have gone on to win the World Series before.

Let’s just worry about the Astros first. Sweep, anyone?

 

Houston Astros @ Chicago Cubs

Pitching matchups are subject to change.

Friday, April 16: Silva, Carlos (0-0, 1.50) vs. Paulino, Felipe (0-0, 7.20)

Saturday, April 17: Gorzelanny, Tom (0-0, 0.00) vs. Oswalt, Roy (0-2, 3.75)

Sunday, April 18: Dempster, Ryan (1-0, 4.38) vs. Rodriguez, Wandy (0-2, 6.10)

 

On the Mound

Silva and Felipe Paulino have each started one game against the Cubs and Astros, respectively. Silva had a strong first start for the Cubs, but keep an eye on the big right-hander, who had to come out after only 71 pitches through six innings because of shoulder stiffness.

Gorzelanny looked sharp in his first start against the Reds, giving up one unearned run in 6.1 innings. Maybe Greg Maddux’s time with Gorzelanny will pay off after all. Roy Oswalt, who has been average against the Cubs with a 13-12 record, opposes Gorzelanny.

Dempster got the win against the Brewers on Monday, but he was up in the zone all day and issued four walks. Wandy Rodriguez has been ineffective thus far, throwing more walks (six) than strikeouts (four) in two starts. He has also given up 14 hits in 10.1 innings.

 

At the Plate

The Cubs need to get Aramis Ramirez going at the plate, but the third base slugger has struggled against Oswalt (.238 BA against with 16 hits and 17 strikeouts) and Rodriguez (.241 BA against with no home runs and one RBI) in his career.

Lou Piniella may give Ramirez a rest on Saturday or Sunday, and maybe the time off will be good for him. Pitchers have been throwing to the outside corner all year, and Ramirez has yet to adjust.

Ramirez is hitting .143 with 14 strikeouts in 35 at-bats, but he has hit three home runs.

Cubs killer alert: It’s probably not a good thing that Carlos Lee has gotten off to such a slow start for the Astros (.086 BA with nine strikeouts, one walk, and no RBI).

Lee is as close to a lock for 30 home runs and 100 RBI as you’ll find anywhere, so don’t expect “El Caballo” to stay cold for much longer.

In his career against the Cubs, Lee has hit .304 with 31 home runs and 85 RBI. At Wrigley, he holds a .311/20/47 line in 55 games. Yikes.

 

Series Prediction

Cubs, 2-1

I wanted to go with the sweep, but the Cubs’ inconsistency at the plate scared me off. I feel pretty confident Silva can keep the Cubs in the game today with an inept Astros lineup, but Oswalt and Rodriguez are tough matchups for Saturday and Sunday. A .500 record after the first two weeks wouldn’t be that bad.

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