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Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, June 26, 2015 at 10:46 AM


TV networks have been waiting YEARS for the Chicago Cubs to get good again. The team can be an attraction even when mediocre because of America's fondness for the franchise. Now that they're a contender...and facing off against their own division leader...the Cubs are must-see TV!

Friday: 8:15 p.m. ET on the MLB Network
Saturday: 7:15 p.m. ET on FOX
Sunday: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

That's prime time across the board for a classic rivalry renewal and a potential playoff preview. Before jumping into JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats, we want to note that the most dominant force in all of baseball right now is "the St. Louis Cardinals at HOME!" The Redbirds are an astonishing 26-7 on their home field despite losing ace starter and annual Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright from the rotation earlier this season. If they win the first two games of this series, they'll move to .800 at home! (Maybe they've been hacking into more than just the Astros computer system!).

Potentially a great series if the Cubs really are playoff material. Let's run the numbers...

Chicago Cubs: 4.16 runs per game, .319 on-base, .391 slugging
St. Louis: 4.07 runs per game, .328 on-base, .403 slugging

Another case where run scoring isn't lining up as well as expected with the raw components of run scoring. We've seen this a few times in recent previews. The Cards are slightly better at what matters...which means they're likely to be slightly better at run production over a longer haul. Both teams are doing enough to win with that level of production. Scary to think what St. Louis might be capable of if they were scoring what they "should" be scoring.

Jake Arrieta: 3.07 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate, 6.5 IP-per-Start
John Lackey: 3.41 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.6 K-Rate, 6.4 IP-per-Start

Nice pitcher's duel to start things off. Arrieta just shut out the Twins, but threw 122 pitches...which isn't the smartest thing in the world right before a huge game against the Cardinals! They needed him on the mound for all nine innings of an 8-0 rout?! Four of the last five starts for Lackey have been quality outings. The failure was at altitude in Colorado, which is a tough place to throw. As long as Arrieta isn't arm-tired, should be a great opening salvo.

Michael Wacha: 2.85 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.0 K-Rate, 6.3 IP-per-Start

This is Tsuyoshi Wada's spot in the rotation for the Cubs. He left Monday's game against the Dodgers after two innings with a "shoulder cramp." As of press time, it's not certain whether or not he'll take the mound Saturday. America wants Wada vs. Wacha! The Cards are getting a little concerned about Wacha's inconsistency over his last few outings. He's been mortal after enjoying a stellar 7-0 start. St. Louis likely a pricey home favorite over whoever toes the rubber for Chicago.

Jason Hammel: 2.65 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.0 K-Rate, 6.5 IP-per-Start
Carlos Martinez: 2.89 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.7 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start

Martinez was hit by a pitch in Miami in his last start...but is expected to be fully recovered from that shot to his pitching shoulder by Sunday evening. More strong numbers. Slight edge to Hammel, particularly if Martinez isn't quite back to 100% strength and form. But, the St. Louis bullpen is so good that the starters could cancel out the Cards the edge over the full nine. You can see why St. Louis has been so dominant thus far in 2015. Nice rotation and a strong bullpen.

Overall for the three-game set...mostly even offenses and even pitching. Let's hope for a great series!

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one big play in this marquee matchup. He's also paying very close attention to Texas/Toronto, NY Yankees/Houston (a series we previewed for you yesterday in the NOTEBOOK), and Kansas City/Oakland (A's are finally waking up!). You can purchase the final word for all daily baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you check on early-bird football packages!

We begin our annual summer series of college football conference previews this weekend with the Mountain West. Boise State, Utah State, and the rest of the Mountain Division will be front and center on Saturday. Then, it's San Diego State, Nevada, and the rest of the "West" on Sunday.

Here's our two-sport outlook for the coming week...

Saturday: College Football...Mountain West "Mountain" Divisional Preview
Sunday: College Football...Mountain West "West" Divisional Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview...choosing from Washington/Atlanta, Cubs/Mets, NY Yankees/LA Angels, and Texas/Baltimore
Thursday: MLB Notes or a series preview of Kansas City/Minnesota (if the Twins continue to contend)

Next weekend's football will be Conference USA if you're planning ahead. Be sure you print those conference previews out so you can refer to the information all summer as you prepare for 2015 college football.

You always get great handicapping information here in the NOTEBOOK, and BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!