Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Friday 7/8, 6:05 CT: Back To The Future

Tony Campana of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated after scoring the go ahead run against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning at Nationals Park on July 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Cubs defeated the Nationals 10-9. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

This is a switch.

The last time the Cubs and Pirates began a series, this late into the season, when the Pirates had a better record than the Cubs was on Sept. 20, 2002. After the games of Sept. 19, 2002, the Pirates led the Cubs by three games. (In 2006, the Cubs and Pirates began a series on Sept. 4 with the Cubs 2.5 games ahead of the Bucs following games of Sept. 3. The Pirates won three of four to dump the Cubs into last place to stay that year.)

However, a situation matching today's -- where the Cubs are well under .500 and the Pirates come in with a winning record and in playoff contention, this late into the season -- last happened on Sept. 28, 1992, the last time the Pirates qualified for the postseason. The Pirates had clinched the old NL East the previous day, but beat the Cubs anyway on Sept. 28, 10-3. Behind a pitcher who's still active -- Tim Wakefield.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose -- Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Cubs lineup:

RF Fukudome, SS Castro, 3B Ramirez, 1B Pena, C Soto, CF Byrd, LF Soriano, 2B Barney, P Lopez

Pirates lineup:

Presley LF, d'Arnaud SS, Jones RF, McCutchen CF, Walker 2B, Overbay 1B, Harrison 3B, McKenry C, McDonald P

Seriously, I've never heard of half these guys. Oh, yes: Josh Harrison was the throw-in in the Gorzelanny/Grabow deal in 2009.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Rodrigo Lopez
Rodrigo Lopez
Cubs
vs. James McDonald
James McDonald
Pirates
1-2 W-L 5-4
3.91 ERA 4.40
13 SO 74
7 BB 47
3 HR 12
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Rodrigo Lopez 1-2 12 3 0 0 0 0 25.1 29 14 11 3 7 13 3.91 1.42


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - James McDonald 5-4 16 17 0 0 0 0 92.0 99 48 45 12 47 74 4.40 1.59

Please try to ignore the start that Rodrigo Lopez made against the White Sox last Sunday, because there is no possible way he could repeat that. He's just not that good. On the other hand, his only career start against Pittsburgh -- on April 9, 2010 while he was with the Diamondbacks -- was almost as good as last Sunday's. In short, who knows? A lot of those guys aren't even on the Pirates any more; Lyle Overbay has the most career AB against Lopez (four) with the most hits (three).

James McDonald's only career start vs. the Cubs was on September 1, 2010 at Wrigley Field. He gave up three runs in five innings and the Cubs won. So maybe this isn't as much of a mismatch as you might think.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and ROOT Sports Pittsburgh. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 6 pm CDT and the overflow threads will post at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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