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montreal expos logoThe Cubs head to the nation’s capitol for a three-game set against the Nationals, which is pretty cool. Today’s game starts early – 10am CT – so that a full day of baseball can get going. Enjoy it, folks.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs are coming off easily their best – in terms of how satisfying it was for fans/players/etc. – series in a long time, after sweeping the Red Sox in Boston. Prior to that, the Cubs were on the verge of taking three of four from these Nationals, which would have made for a very compelling stretch. As it was, the Cubs got swept in a doubleheader before heading to Boston.

The Nationals went on to sweep the Rockies after that doubleheader, so they’ve won five in a row. Bully for them. They used to be the Expos. Just mentioning it.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, July 4 at 10:05 CT on WGN, MLBN.
  • Saturday, July 5 at 3:05 CT on CSN.
  • Saturday, July 6 at 12:35 CT on WGN.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Jason Hammel (2.98 ERA, 3.12 FIP; 4.62 K/BB), Jeff Samardzija (2.83 ERA, 3.07 FIP; 3.32 K/BB), Jake Arrieta (1.81 ERA, 1.96 FIP; 4.63 K/BB)

Lineup (been shuffling a lot lately):

  1. Junior Lake/Chris Coghlan/Justin Ruggiano, LF
  2. Ruggiano and Lake go here, too – or Ryan Sweeney
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Starlin Castro, SS
  5. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  6. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Darwin Barney, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Nationals

Starters: Tanner Roark (2.98 ERA, 3.38 FIP; 3.08 K/BB), Gio Gonzalez (3.93 ERA, 3.34 FIP; 2.45 K/BB), Jordan Zimmermann (2.95 ERA, 2.74 FIP; 4.79 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Anthony Rendon, 2B
  3. Jayson Werth’s Beard, RF
  4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
  5. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
  6. Bryce Harper, LF
  7. Ian Desmond, SS
  8. Jose Lobaton/Wilson Ramos, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Very small advantage? The Nationals will use three starting pitchers that the Cubs just saw last week. The Cubs, on the other hand, repeat just two of their three starters (it can be difficult to face the same team so quickly in succession, let alone back-to-back starts). The bad news? The two Cubs starters that overlap are probably the two guys you most want to see pitching well every single start – Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija.

Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena have identical wOBAs (.350) and wRC+ (120). Their OPS’ are nearly the same (.804 for Castro, .795 for Valbuena), and their BABIPs are nearly the same, too (.327/.328).

Speaking of Valbuena, he’s got the team lead in line drive rate at 23.7%. If I told you number two, tied with Anthony Rizzo, is Darwin Barney at 23.1%, would you say Barney’s been wildly unlucky this year … or would you question the accuracy of the LD% stat? Of the 45 (qualifying) players in baseball with a line drive rate that high, none has a BABIP as low as Barney (.241), and only 9 have BABIPs below .300. The problem for Barney appears to be a career-high flyball rate, which doesn’t exactly play to his strengths, since he’ll usually not have the power necessary to hit the ball out of the ballpark. That’s depressing his BABIP right there.

Bryce Harper is back for the Nationals, and, when he’s not stirring up drama, he’s playing decent baseball – though below his usual standards (.287/.350/.415).

The latest drama, by the way, was Harper publicly advocating for a lineup, essentially, that featured Danny Espinosa (.217/.284/.348) instead of Denard Span (.266/.316/.386). Mostly, I think Harper just wants to play center field.

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