Probable Pitchers

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Friday at 2:20pm EDT – Paul Maholm vs. Bud Norris

Maholm needs a win. His last one was May 9 against the Braves. He was roughed up in his last start against the Diamondbacks, giving up six runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. The bright spot? He hit his second career home run. Norris returns from the disabled list to start the series opener against the Cubs. He injured his hip flexor May 31 against the Rockies and was 0-3 with a 13.09 ERA in three starts while dealing with that and a sprained knee.

Saturday at 4:05pm EDT – Matt Garza vs. J.A. Happ

Garza has six quality starts in his last nine games, but only one win in that stretch. One of those games that wasn’t a quality start was May 21 against the Astros, when he gave up seven runs on five hits over three innings. Happ, who went to Northwestern and lives in Chicago, is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last two starts, allowing just eight hits, three walks and three runs in 13 innings. This is only his second career appearance at Wrigley.

Sunday at 2:20pm EDT – Travis Wood vs. Wandy Rodriguez

Wood may not want to turn the calendar. He posted a 2.27 ERA in June, and picked up wins against former Cy Young winners Jake Peavy and Johan Santana. He has four quality starts in his last five outings. Rodriguez hasn’t pitched as well recently as he did earlier. He’s 2-1 with a 4.68 ERA in his last four starts, allowing 29 hits and 13 runs in his last 25 innings. He’s 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in 11 career starts at Wrigley.

How to Pitch to the Big Boys

Each series we’ll take a look at the top three home run hitters in the opposing team’s lineup to establish how to get them out and minimize the damage. The heat maps show each player’s isolated power based on area of the zone. If you’re not familiar with the stat, Isolated Power or ISO is a sabermetric baseball statistic which measures a batter’s raw power. The formula is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average, which removes all the singles that are included in SLG%. The final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat. By limiting extra base hits, you drastically increase your chance to win the game

Our Take

by Jeremiah Johnson

Does it seem weird that we’re on the verge of July and we’ve only played the Astros once so far?  I guess we’ll see them a lot in the second half.

Now the last time these two teams faced off was in the midst of the Cubs’ horri-awful 12-game losing streak.  And I strongly doubt that we’ll once again have the top-to-bottom incompetence that handed all three games to the Astros.  Since then, the starting rotation has regained a small amount of stability (still nowhere near where they started the season, but better than they were a month or so ago), some of the bats have warmed up, and the bullpen, while still a dumpster fire, has been downgraded from a four-alarm catastrophe.

And here’s the thing–the Astros are a lousy team.  Yes, they sit above the Cubs in the standings, but if ever there was a team the Cubs ought to be able to compete against, it’s the Astros.  The only way to get out of the cellar is to consistently beat the other bottom-dwellers.  I’m not interested in the race for the first overall pick in the 2013 draft–I want to see some life out of the patchwork team we’ve got right now.

We’ve been looking ahead to roster turnover for a few weeks now, and we’ll see what kind of trade magic Theo and Jed can create as the deadline creeps up.  But even as the fans give up on 2012 and look ahead to next year (or beyond) I’m hopeful the team doesn’t have the same kind of fatalistic mentality.  I hope they still have something to play for–even if it’s just their jobs.  I think they can do better than they have done, and it has to start against beatable teams like the Astros.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail