Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Thursday 8/4, 6:05 CT: This Should Have Been A Day Game

Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs rounds second base after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on August 3, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Why is this game being played at night? The Cubs have a day game in Chicago Friday, and generally, when a team has that situation -- getaway day with a day game the next day -- the hosting team has an afternoon contest.

I know that if the flight between the cities is short -- less than two hours, IIRC -- the hosting team can do this. But I'm surprised the Cubs didn't ask for this game to be played during the day. The Reds, who have today off, are likely already in Chicago enjoying the nice day here. On the other hand, maybe they'll stay out too late tonight and not be ready for tomorrow.

The Cubs should be allowed, two or three times a year if needed, to play home games on Friday nights. This is one of two such situations in 2011 (the other: a Sept. 15 night game in Cincinnati, a Sept. 16 day game at home vs. the Astros). There generally aren't more than two or three occasions per year when this situation comes up. There's no reason the neighborhood, the city and the Cubs shouldn't be able to make that agreement.

In the meantime, the Cubs go for their first four-game sweep in Pittsburgh since June 5-7, 1959; on June 7 the Cubs took both ends of a doubleheader to complete the sweep. The 1959 Cubs, led by MVP Ernie Banks, were a decent team that stayed over .500, and within five games of first place, until late July, then collapsed. If that team had had better pitching, it might have actually won the NL pennant -- the Dodgers won (after a three-game playoff with the Braves) with only 86 regular season wins, the fewest in the pre-divisional play era. The Cubs finished only 12 games behind (before that three-game playoff).

Speaking of Banks, Starlin Castro last night joined Ernie as one of only three Cubs shortstops to hit a home run for the only run in a 1-0 win. (Andre Rodgers was the third.) Nice company, Starlin.

Cubs lineup:

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

Will someone please stop Mike Quade from playing DeWitt in left field again? I'd rather see Tony Campana; at least he's fun to watch.

Pirates lineup:

McCutchen CF, Jones RF, Walker 2B, Lee 1B, Alvarez 3B, Ludwick LF, Doumit C, Wood SS, McDonald P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Rodrigo Lopez
Rodrigo Lopez
Cubs
vs. James McDonald
James McDonald
Pirates
2-3 W-L 7-5
4.40 ERA 4.17
22 SO 99
11 BB 54
6 HR 15
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Rodrigo Lopez 2-3 16 6 0 0 0 0 43.0 50 24 21 6 11 22 4.40 1.42


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - James McDonald 7-5 20 21 0 0 0 0 114.1 126 56 53 15 54 99 4.17 1.57

These two pitchers matched up on July 8 at PNC. As has been typical for so many Cubs games this year, Rodrigo Lopez threw decently -- six innings, three earned runs -- and left the game in a 3-3 tie. The Cubs took a 4-3 lead after Lopez was removed, but both Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol had bad games that day, and the Cubs lost 7-4. Aramis Ramirez homered off James McDonald that day; Andrew McCutchen homered off Lopez.

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 6:05 p.m. 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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