Preview: Cubs at Astros

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[September 09, 2016]  The Chicago Cubs continue their nine-game road trip with the first of three against the Houston Astros on Friday and are not content with having the best record in baseball or a huge lead in the National League Central. “The cool thing for me is that when you've got this kind of lead this late in the season, guys are still not giving away (at-bats) late in the game,” Chicago catcher David Ross told reporters. “That's a sign of guys just focused on what's going on, on the field. Nothing else.”

The Cubs, who are 12-1 in their last 13 series openers, lead the St. Louis Cardinals by 16 games and have a magic number of eight to clinch their first division title since 2008. Houston trails Baltimore by 2 1/2 games for the second wild card spot in the American League after concluding a 3-4 road trip by splitting four in Cleveland. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa missed the last two games because of shoulder inflammation and was sent back to Houston Wednesday to be examined by team doctors, leaving his availability for the Chicago series in question. Chicago's Jon Lester is 6-0 with a 1.85 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break and opposes rookie Joe Musgrove, who is 1-0, 0.54 in three games (two starts) at home.

TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), ROOT (Houston)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (15-4, 2.61 ERA) vs. Astros RH Joe Musgrove (2-3, 5.06)

Lester, who is among the favorites to win his first Cy Young award, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before pitching a three-hitter in Chicago's 2-1 victory over San Francisco on Sept. 2. "I didn't think his stuff was overpowering,'' Ross told reporters about the 32-year-old Washington native. "He just really moved the ball around and executed the pitches when he had to." Lester, who is 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 road turns, is 10-0, 2.43 in 15 night starts.

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Musgrove allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 12-4 loss at Texas on Saturday, falling to 1-3 with an 8.71 ERA in four road starts. The 23-year-old Californian and first-round draft pick by Toronto in 2011 hasn't gotten through the sixth inning in his last four starts, going 1-3 with a 8.53 ERA during that span. Musgrove yielded 42 hits, seven home runs and eight walks while striking out 35 in 37 1/3 innings this season.


1. The Cubs lost in Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday, and haven't dropped three straight since a five-game slide from July 5-9.

2. Houston 2B Jose Altuve is four stolen bases shy of becoming the first player in history to reach 200 doubles and 200 steals in his first six seasons.

3. Chicago CF and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler is hitless in his last 19 at-bats.

PREDICTION: Cubs 3, Astros 2

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