First, let me take a bit of this space to thank all those who serve or have served this country in the military; it is thanks to you and your sacrifices that we have the freedoms we enjoy. We remember and give thanks.
This is only the second home night game the Cubs have ever played on a holiday; the other was on July 4, 2004, a Sunday night vs. the White Sox, when LaTroy Hawkins ruined a terrific Glendon Rusch start by allowing a game-tying homer to Carlos Lee in the top of the 9th. Todd Walker drew a bases-loaded walk off Damaso Marte in the bottom of the 9th to win it.
There is one other unique (and I use that word in its correct and literal sense: the only time) thing about this series: the Pirates have just finished an interleague series on the South Side vs. the White Sox. Thus they will spend nearly an entire week in Chicago playing both teams. In the 12 years since interleague play started in 1997, this is the only time a team has been scheduled this way in Chicago (it happened one other time due to a rainout, in June 2007 when the Astros played a series at the Cell and then stayed over on a Monday to play a makeup game vs. the Cubs). This has happened only one other time among all the other two-team markets (New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area) -- that was in 2001, when the Rockies played July 15-16-17 at Oakland, then stayed and played July 18-19 in San Francisco. It's surprising MLB doesn't do this more often, though given the way bizarre schedules are made these days, maybe it's not. In researching this, I found a wacky sequence in 2007 where Oakland played the Mets in a three-game series at Shea, then went to Cleveland for three, then immediately back to New York to play the Yankees from June 22-July 1. (Don't believe me? Look it up.)
More bizarro scheduling notes: last year the Cubs had played the Pirates 12 times by this calendar date; in 2009 this is the first meeting of the two teams. The Cubs have faced lefthanded starters only five times so far this year, fewest in the majors (with a 3-2 record); that will change in this series, as they will face two lefties (Paul Maholm tonight and Zach Duke on Wednesday afternoon), as well as the Dodgers' Randy Wolf on Thursday.
|Today's Starting Pitchers|
|2009 - Ryan Dempster||3-3||9||9||0||0||0||0||57.1||50||29||28||7||23||49||4.40||1.27|
|2009 - Paul Maholm||3-1||9||9||0||0||0||0||57.1||54||22||21||2||18||32||3.30||1.26|
Paul Maholm has a 4-1 career record vs. the Cubs... but with an unsightly 6.32 ERA. A lot of that is from last year, when he threw 14 innings in two starts, allowing 10 earned runs (6.43 ERA). Alfonso Soriano is 6-for-17 (.353) with three homers vs. Maholm; Reed Johnson, who homered yesterday, is 4-for-6 with a double.
Ryan Dempster threw one of the best games of his 2008 season on April 8 in Pittsburgh, allowing only one hit over seven innings. Thanks to the bullpen (sound familiar?) the Cubs needed 15 innings to win that game. Dempster handles most of the Pirates pretty well; of their current roster only Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche have homered off him and current Pirates are hitting only .250 (21-for-84) off Dempster.
Once again, the Cubs are on WGN with national exposure. This hasn't worked out too well for the last week. Maybe today will break that jinx. For today's other games see the MLB.com Mediacenter.
Overflow comment threads will post today at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT.
Discuss amongst yourselves.