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Astros Off To Wrigley Again

For all the talk about the Astros' rivalry with the Cardinals, it's the Cubs I really enjoy hating.  Especially when we play them at Wrigley.  Maybe it's the casual rudeness of so many of their fans (although there are always pleasant exceptions in any fanbase).  Maybe it's Lou Piniella's seeming inability to crack a smile.  Or perhaps it's that stupid song they sing after wins.

Whatever it is, they rub me the wrong way.

Tonight, the Astros head over to Wrigley to start their third series against the Cubbies.  Wandy Rodriguez will face off against Carlos Silva in a battle of the soft-tossers.  While Silva (3.45 ERA, 3.75 FIP) is enjoying a resurgent season, Wandy is doing just the opposite, though he has shown signs of life lately.

Tomorrow's probable pitchers are Wesley Wright and Ryan Dempster (oh, boy), and Wednesday Brett Myers takes the mound against Ted Lilly.

The Astros won both of their other series against the Cubs this season; three would be improbable, since the Cubs have been underachieving and their true talent level is actually considerably higher than the Astros (both their pitching and their hitting have been approximately average, going by advanced statistics).  Still, if there's any series I always want to win more than any other, it's against the Cubs.

This season, the Cubs have been defined by the underachievement of their two best hitters, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, who have combined for under .700 OPS in 600+ plate appearances between the two of them.  Also underperforming is Ted Lilly, who is one of a few pitchers on the trade market competing with Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers for a job with a contender.  There is also, of course, Carlos Zambrano, who became the most expensive middle reliever in baseball (for a short period) before getting himself suspended for melting down in the dugout after a shelling at the hands of the White Sox.  Reportedly he will head back to the bullpen when he returns.

On the flip side, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto, and rookie shortstop Starlin Castro have performed very well indeed, with the former two keeping Chicago's offense afloat.  Alfonso Soriano has also improbably rebounded, with .888 OPS.  If you'd informed Cubs fans prior to the start of the season that those four players would perform so well, they probably would have been ecstatic and preparing for a division title.  Instead, the Cubs are 42-51, just 4.5 games ahead of the floundering Astros and likely sellers at the trade deadline.

That's baseball for you.