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tampa bay rays logoIt’s not *just* the presence of Javier Baez, you know.

Although he’s certainly the shiny new toy, and very (very!) deserving of attention, there’s something more to the excitement and buzz building about the Cubs that will make the energy at this series special. I suppose the best way I can describe it is that there seems to be an impending relevance to the Cubs. They matter again. And they’re going to matter more and more as the next several months and years go by.

Like I said before, I don’t think it’s reasonable (or fair to Javy) to call Baez’s arrival THE turning point for the franchise. It’s a process. But this time – this week, this series, this whatever – is something we’ll look back on in a few years. And we’ll remember how it felt to experience things in the middle of turning.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs are on fire! At least against the Rockies and Dodgers. They’ve won three straight series, and 7 of 10 games overall.

The Rays were baseball’s hottest team in July, but have cooled a bit, dropping both of their August series. While they won’t be making a playoff push, especially not after a trading away at the deadline, they should wind up respectable after an ugly start.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, August 8 at 3:05 CT on WGN.
  • Saturday, August 9 at 3:05 CT on WGN.
  • Sunday, August 10 at 1:20 CT on CSN.

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: Tsuyoshi Wada (3.32 ERA, 3.23 FIP; 2.38 K/BB), Edwin Jackson (5.66 ERA, 4.21 FIP; 2.15 K/BB), Travis Wood (5.08 ERA, 4.20 FIP; 1.90 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Chris Coghlan, LF
  2. Javier Baez, 2B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Starlin Castro, SS
  5. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  6. Arismendy Alcantara, CF
  7. Ryan Sweeney/Justin Ruggiano, RF
  8. Welington Castillo, C
  9. Pitcher

Rays

Starters: Chris Archer (3.42 ERA, 3.25 FIP; 2.29 K/BB), Jake Odorizzi (4.09 ERA, 3.45 FIP; 2.89 K/BB), Alex Cobb (3.52 ERA, 3.58 FIP; 3.00 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Desmond Jennings, CF
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  3. Matt Joyce, LF
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B
  5. James Loney, 1B
  6. Yunel Escobar, SS
  7. Kevin Kiermaier, RF
  8. Jose Molina, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

All eyes will be on Javier Baez, and hopefully he does something fun for the folks this weekend.

Anthony Rizzo returns after a day off, which came after an 11-game cool stretch: .250/.327/.292. Note that he still takes his walks.

I’m eager to see Tsuyoshi Wada once again. He’s been steady (just like Kyle Hendricks) as a possible back-end guy, but the Cubs are really loading up on those types, and there’s going to be something of a fierce competition for starts next year.

We can all watch Chris Archer and (probably) pine for what might have been.

Kevin Kiermaier has really come on for the Rays, hitting .288/.341/.517 on the year.

It’s been a really down year for erstwhile stud third baseman Evan Longoria, who is hitting just .256/.333/.398 with a 106 wRC+.

Off the bench, popular former Cub David DeJesus is hitting .269/.367/.440 for the Rays, and I say good for him.

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