Series Preview: Cubs at Blue Jays
The last time the Cubs were in Toronto I was 23, they were having the best season of my adult life as they were en route to a playoff appearance. Mark Prior was on that squad, and I have fond memories of cursing his career by loudly proclaiming before the game "you're going to be a Cy Young award winner! A Hall of Famer! You're awesome!" In part because Sammy Sosa was on suspension for corking his bat, the Cubs proceeded to get smoked by the Jays in two out of the three games played, including during the Prior Jinx Game - even after Troy O'Leary briefly put the Cubs in the lead by hitting a rare grand slam.
Not that it mattered too much. The Cubs were a good team that year, and they proved it by crushing my hopes and dreams in the 6th and 7th games of the NLCS. F*ckers.
The Cubs return to Toronto starting tonight. It should be an interesting series - the Jays can't score a run to save their life but, like last time, the Cubs are without one of their biggest bats. Anyway, onward to the preview:
Friday, June 13th Sean Gallagher vs. A.J. Burnett
I was particularly hoping to see Carlos Zambrano pitch this game, but instead I'll have to settle for watching my favorite young Cubs pitcher. Gallagher - who looks like a total tool in his profile photo - hasn't performed too badly, although he's yet to really buckle down and consistently deliver his best.
His opponent will be A.J. Burnett, a July trading deadline candidate who very well might find himself in Cubbie blue before the dog days roll in. Burnett has great strikeout stuff, but he's been entirely too hit and miss this season. If he's on his game, then he'll be a force for the Cubs to reckon with. But if he's spotty - as he can be - then the Cubs could rip him for some runs.
Saturday, June 14th Jason Marquis vs. Roy Halliday
Marquis looks to build on his last two starts, where he didn't entirely suck (but wasn't entirely good, either). He's facing an uphill battle against Halliday, who is one of the best - and most under-appreciated - pitchers in all of baseball.
Actually, I got to see Roy pitch against the Cubs in 2005, when Toronto came to Chicago. After a rough 2 losses against the Jays - apparently Toronto owns Chicago - Halliday faced off against the ... uh, "great" Sergio Mitre, who somehow beat him. Hey, if it happened once, it can definitely happen again, but I wouldn't bet on it. Perhaps the one saving grace will be Toronto's inability to muster an offense, and perhaps the Cubs will squeak by with a 3-2 or 3-1 victory.
Sunday, June 15th Ted Lilly vs. Jesse Litsch
Ah, the 15th of June. It marks the beginning of my relationship with my fiancee - we've been together for six years - and it also marks Ted Lilly's return to Toronto where he will attempt to extract revenge against the team he abandoned two years ago. But he will not have an easy go of it - Jesse Litsch is 23 and talented. He has now made 32 career starts in the majors, and in that time he's gone 14-11 with 92 strikeouts, 48 walks, and a 3.65 ERA in 187.1 career innings.
In other words, it very well might be another tough game.
Prediction: While the Cubs will be catching the best part of the Jays rotation, they are fortunate to be coming to Toronto in a time of offensive struggles. It never helps a struggling offense to face a bunch of pitchers who they rarely-if-ever see, and while the Cubs will have a steep hill to climb, I'm expecting a series victory.
I've gone to great lengths in the past week to point out just how tough this schedule will be on Chicago, but so far they've handled things beautifully, even without the Fonz. If they can kick off this road trip with a couple of big wins, who knows, maybe it'll be easier than it seems.
Either way, I'm off to see the game. I'll bring a camera, I'll snap pictures, and I'll post a first-hand recap when I get back.