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Less than one month into the season, the Chicago Cubs have put together their best start in 13 years, celebrated the 10,000th win in franchise history and acknowledged the possibility of heading to their first World Series since 1945.
However, they also know it's far too early to get complacent.
After having their longest win streak of the year snapped, the Cubs look to get back on track Friday night when they open a three-game road series against the Washington Nationals.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Chicago -120 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -120 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
Chicago (15-7) seems poised to contend in the NL Central, thanks to the club's first 15-7 opening since 1995. The Cubs recorded their 10,000th win on Wednesday night - two days after shortstop Ronny Cedeno admitted the club was thinking about the World Series.
Manager Lou Piniella quickly put a stop to the World Series talk, but the team remains confident - even after having its six-game win streak snapped with a 4-2 loss at Colorado on Thursday.
"There's no letup on this team," Thursday's starter Jason Marquis told the Cubs' official Web site. "We have good players. It's a long year, so we're going to go out there day-by-day and battle and try to take each game on its own."
The Cubs dominated the Nationals (7-16) last season, winning six of seven in the series, including three of four on the road. With a win Friday, the Cubs can improve to 16-7 for the first time since 1969.
"These kids are confident, I can tell you that," Piniella said. "They're getting after it every night, which is what you have to do."
The Nationals have won two of three after dropping 15 of their previous 17 games, and are looking for their first back-to-back victories since they opened 3-0.
On Thursday night, Washington fell one run and one hit shy of its season highs by recording 13 hits in a 10-5 victory over the New York Mets. The Nationals got two hits apiece from five of the top six in the batting order, including leadoff man Felipe Lopez, who hit his first home run of the season - a grand slam - and delivered a career high-tying six RBIs.
"I'm me again, you know?" said Lopez, who is hitting .357 in seven games since supplanting Ronnie Belliard as the Nationals' starting second baseman. "I steal bases, score runs, get on base, walk. It's exciting."
The Nationals hope they saved some offense for starter Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.38 ERA), who has only received five runs of support in 26 2-3 innings spanning five starts. The left-hander held Florida to one unearned run and five hits while striking out seven in six innings on Sunday, but Washington lost 6-1.
Perez is 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs.
He'll match up against Ryan Dempster (3-0, 3.00), who has made a smooth transition into the starting rotation after spending the last four seasons in the Cubs' bullpen. Chicago has won each of the right-hander's four starts, including a 13-6 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday, when Dempster gave up three runs in five innings.
Dempster is 6-0 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 career games - 10 starts - against the Washington franchise.