A series against the Cubs seems almost like an afterthought, since it falls on the same three days as the First Year Player Draft. That being said, the Astros have won three series in a row, and if they want to climb up from the NL Central cellar, winning this tilt against Chicago would be a superb start.
Injuries as much as anything else, have disrupted the Cubs' season thus far. Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden, their top two starters, have both missed significant time. Thankfully, Harden is poised for a weekend return, just missing the series against our Astros. Offensively, Aaron Miles, Ryan Freel and Aramis Ramirez are all on the disabled list currently. The likes of Bobby Scales, Reed Johnson and Micah Hoffpauir have seen considerable amounts of time...not exactly the big names you expect to see in Chicago's every day lineup. Fortunately for them, Kosuke Fukudome has rebounded off a terrible second half in 2008. Unfortunately (for them) Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto have all seen varying levels of regression:
The Cubs finished first in the NL in OPS (.797) and wOBA (.348) last season, but the struggles of these three combined with the aforementioned injuries have pushed Chicago to the middle of the pack. The Astros OPS so far in 2009, .355, outpaces the Cubs OPS, .732, by a good mark. Their BABIP leads me to believe that this number may rise some, but a low OBP may not adjust until their injuries subside.
Projected Cubs Starters:
Carlos Zambrano (Wednesday vs. Wandy Rodriguez)