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nationals parkIt’s never too early for baseball, especially when it comes with barbecue and fireworks and American pride!

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capitol on the Fourth of the July in the first game of the day, kicking off a full slate of baseball all day long. Each team comes in off of a series sweep – the good kind – after they split four against each other at Wrigley Field last week.

Jason Hammel starts for the Cubs today in what could be (I know, eye roll) his last start with the Cubs. Are we on #HugWatch alert? Probably a little, though it strikes me – with no data to back it up – that pitchers are less likely than position players to be pulled early and traded mid-game (because then they have to wait five days before starting again anyway – if I’m a buyer, I’d rather just then let the guy finish the game and see how he feels after before pulling the trigger).

If the schedule holds, by the way, Hammel would have just one more start after this one before the All-Star break.

With Bryce Harper now back, Ryan Zimmerman shifts back to third base, where shoulder woes have cast his throwing ability into doubt. My vote? Test him early with bunts, Cubs.

Game Info

Chicago Cubs (37-46) at Washington Nationals (46-38), 10:05 CT on WGN, MLBN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

Game threads now live here in the comments, using the Disqus platform. Enjoy.

The Series Preview lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Jason Hammel 2.98 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 3.26 xFIP; 4.62 K/BB)

versus

Tanner Roark (2.98 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 3.87 xFIP; 3.08 K/BB)

Washington Nationals Lineup

1. Denard Span, CF

2. Bryce Harper, LF

3. Jayson Werth, RF

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

6. Anthony Rendon, 2B

7. Ian Desmond, SS

8. Wilson Ramos, C

9. Tanner Roark, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Chris Coghlan, LF

2. Justin Ruggiano, CF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Starlin Castro, SS

5. Luis Valbuena, 3B

6. Nate Schierholtz, RF

7. John Baker, C

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Jason Hammel, P

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