Houston Astros (74-66) vs. Chicago Cubs (89-50), September 9-11, 2016
The Houston Astros continue their trek through the NL Central. This time around they face the juggernaut called the Chicago Cubs. The Astros and Cubs have been on a similar rebuilding track over the past three seasons. Now we’ll see how far ahead the Cubs are in that rebuilding plan
Al Yellon, managing editor of our SB Nation Cubs site Bleed Cubbie Blue, give us a picture of the Cubs coming into the series:
Hello, Astros fans!
Remember us? We were your division rival for 19 seasons in the N.L. Central (1994-2012). The last time these two teams met in Houston, almost exactly four years ago, both were headed for 100-loss seasons.
Since then, both teams have undergone major rebuilds and both made the postseason last year. The Cubs, as you might have heard, should be headed back to October baseball, having dominated the N.L. Central all year.
They're led by one of the two holdovers from the 2012 team, Anthony Rizzo, the heart and soul of the Cubs as well as one of their best players. He's headed for his third straight 30-homer season.
And then there's MVP candidate Kris Bryant, leading the N.L. in bWAR, homers and runs and is second in OPS. He plays mostly third base, but also some outfield, as Joe Maddon likes to have versatile players who can play multiple positions.
You'll see Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey in this series. Jake isn't quite as good as he was in his amazing Cy Young season last year, but he's still one of the better pitchers in the league. Lester is having one of the best years of his career, with a 1.85 ERA and 0.96 WHIP since the All-Star break. Lackey seems fine after a short late-August DL stint.
Beyond those, a fun player to watch is Javier Baez, who plays outstanding defense no matter where he's placed in the infield.
It's still a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around the Astros as an A.L. team and that we'll be using a DH this weekend. (Can't imagine it's any easier for you guys!)
Finally, I just wanted to say "thank you" to the Astros for drafting Mark Appel in 2013 instead of Bryant. We're eternally grateful.
Pitching Matchups & TV schedule
RHP Joe Musgrove (2-3, 5.06 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) vs. RHP Jon Lester (15-4, 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)
Time: 7:10 p.m. CT
TV: ROOT SPORTS Southwest
Radio: KBME 790, La Nueva 94.1 FM (En Español)
RHP Collin McHugh (9-10, 4.96 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) vs. RHP John Lackey (9-7, 3.36 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
RHP Mike Fiers (10-6, 4.29 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (16-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
Split records: Astros — 39-29 at home; Cubs — 45-23 on the road
Run differential: Astros — +43 (8th best in MLB); Cubs — +221 (1st)
Runs scored per game: Astros — 4.62; Cubs — 5.01
OPS+: Astros — 104 (6th); Cubs — 106 (2nd)
wRC+: Astros — 101 (9th); Cubs — 105 (4th)
Runs allowed per game: Astros — 4.31; Cubs — 3.42
ERA+: Astros — 98 (21st); Cubs — 130 (1st)
Last 10 games: Astros — 6-4; Cubs — 7-3
2016 head-to-head record: 0-0
2015 head-to-head: 0-0