Game One Hundred Forty: Cubs (89-50) vs. Astros (74-66)
- Game Time – 7:05pm CDT
- Coverage – TV: WGN-TV – Radio: WSCR 670 The Score, Cubs Radio Network, XM Radio Channels 180, 844
- Location – Minute Maid Park, Houston
Jon Lester, LHP (15-4, 2.61/1.04/3.65) vs. Joe Musgrove, RHP (2-3, 5.06/1.33/4.52)
The Cubs return to the field tonight after receiving a much needed breather. Jon Lester takes the ball and will look to end the Cubs’ two-game skid.
The Cubs play their first games in Houston in almost exactly four years. The Dale Sveum led Cubs took two of three from the Astros in September 2012 (Sept. 10-12). Chris Volstad and Travis Wood picked up the wins for the Cubs, Carlos Marmol a save and Justin Germano had the loss in the middle game.
The Cubs won eight of the 15 games four years ago against the Astros. And it was the 101-loss season that put the Cubs in the position to take Kris Bryant the following June with the second overall pick in the draft. The Cubs and Astros squared off again the next season after Houston moved to the AL West. The Cubs won two of three against the Astros during the weekend series at Wrigley in late June (June 22-25).
This is the first series between the former long-time NL Central Division rivals in three years. And over that span just about everything has changed for both organizations.
The Astros have had a rough, inconsistent season and not performed near the expectations that were placed on the pre-season favorites to win The Series. The Astros are 8 ½ games behind the Rangers in the AL West and 2 ½ back of the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card with the Tigers and Yankees ahead of them.
The Cubs offense will not get a breather this weekend. The Cubs face another rookie starter tonight in Joe Musgrove, a soft-tossing right-hander on Saturday (12:05pm CDT) in Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers on Sunday night (7:05pm CDT). Fiers made some of his best starts with Brewers against the Cubs.
After Jon Lester versus Joe Musgrove, Joe Maddon has John Lackey and Jake Arrieta lined up for Saturday and Sunday at the Juice Box.
Maddon is expected to use either Jorge Soler or Miguel Montero as his DH for the next three games in the AL park. Tommy La Stella should be another option Maddon is considering to use as his designated hitter this weekend. The Cubs are 13-4 in Interleague play this season, with three games left against the Astros.
Tonight all starts with Jon Lester …
Jon Lester returns to the mound tonight after a week off. The last time Lester was on the hill he was masterful against the Giants. Lester pitched a complete game after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Lester allowed three hits and one run in what was a very efficient 102-pitch outing.
The Cubs need for Lester to set the tone for the series tonight in Houston against a team fighting to make the postseason.
Jon Lester is 6-0 in his last nine starts with a 1.85 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Lester has allowed 12 runs on 37 hits with 19 walks and 56 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. The Cubs are 8-1 the last nine times Lester has gotten the ball.
Lester had to adjust his routine this week with the off day and sixth pitcher added to the rotation. Lester depends on his routine in between starts. Lester could struggle tonight, especially on the road where he’s had issues this year. Lester is 7-2 in 14 starts outside of Wrigley with a 3.40 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. By far his two worst games of the season have been in the opponent’s park. If Lester is able to get through the first couple of innings tonight he should be okay.
Jon Lester makes just the second start of his career against the Astros tonight. Lester received a no-decision back on Jun 28, 2008 at Minute Maid Park after allowing six runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in five innings (10.80 ERA, 1.80 WHIP).
The last time Lester pitched in Houston, the Astros were still in the National League and competing with Lou Piniella’s Cubs for the NL Central title. And the Red Sox were coming off the second World Series Championship under Theo Epstein.
Colby Rasmus (3-for-15) and Evan Gattis (2-for-3) are the only two players on A.J. Hinch’s active roster that have faced Jon Lester in a regular season big league ballgame.
The Cubs get to figure out another rookie starting pitcher tonight. Joe Musgrove is making his seventh start in the Major Leagues tonight. Musgrove is coming off a rough outing against the Rangers. Musgrove allowed five runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings in a 12-4 loss in Texas. Musgrove was very good in his first three big league starts but has not adjusted to the league’s adjustments.
Musgrove has struggled in three of his last four starts. Leading up to his last time out, Musgrove was 2-2 in six games, five starts, with a 4.36 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
In 37 1/3 innings in the big leagues, Musgrove has given up 21 runs on 42 hits with eight walks and 35 strikeouts.
As to be expected from a rookie, Musgrove has pitched a lot better at home than on the road. In three games, two starts, at Minute Maid, he is 1-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. Musgrove has allowed one run on nine hits with four walks and 21 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.
One of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball made 16 appearances, 14 starts, at the Double- and Triple-A level before his call up. Musgrove was 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. In 85 1/3 innings, Musgrove allowed 28 runs, 26 earned, on 79 hits with 10 walks and 87 strikeouts.
No one on Joe Maddon’s active roster, and that’s a lot of players, has faced Joe Musgrove in a Major League game that counts.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …