Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants Preview, Friday 8/31, 1:20 CT

Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs high-fives teammate Carlos Marmol as they celebrate Soriano's game-winning RBI single scoring Starlin Castro against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 12-11. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

It's hard to write these preview posts. So today, I have given this one over to my Baseball Nation colleague, Grant Brisbee, who runs out SB Nation Giants blog McCovey Chronicles.

The Cubs are the last team the Giants play outside the NL West. That seems really, really hard to believe.

They're also in the middle of a gift-basket road trip, with three against the Astros before heading to Chicago. They swept the Astros, and anything less than a sweep against the Cubs would feel disappointing, even if that's a silly, overly optimistic way to follow baseball.

Here's the thing, though: They swept the Astros without playing especially good baseball. They failed to score in a bases-loaded, no-out situation, and struggled with runners on at several points. Their last two starters gave up early runs. At no point did it feel like the Giants were overwhelming the Astros with good baseball; the Astros' brand of bad baseball was the more dominant force.

The Cubs aren't having a good season -- no, no, that isn't a claim I make idly -- but they aren't the Astros. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are fascinating young players, and it's not like the Giants are guaranteed to hit, either. They struggle against pitchers who hold the ball with their fingers, which my research suggests they'll see a lot of. Travis Wood dominated them earlier in the year, and Chris Volstad -- Chris Volstad -- has a career 2.67 ERA against them.

I want the Giants to sweep. I expect them to take two of three. But I won't be surprised if the other permutations pop up. Baseball never aligns with reality that perfectly.

But it'd be really cool if the Cubs lost all three games. If there's anything you could do to help with that ... I mean the alternative is the Dodgers. You like America, right?

Cubs lineup:

Mather RF, Vitters 3B, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Castro SS, Castillo C, Jackson CF, Barney 2B, Volstad P

Note to Dale Sveum: Starting a guy with a .255 OBP in the leadoff spot, just because the opposing pitcher is lefthanded, is not the way to win games. If Joe Mather has to start, hit him eighth. Granted, there aren't a whole lot of choices here, but Darwin Barney might have been a better one.

Giants lineup was not in at the time this post was prepared. Check the BCB Twitter feed for the Giants lineup.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Chris Volstad
Chris Volstad
Cubs
vs. Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner
Giants
1-9 W-L 14-8
6.28 ERA 2.93
44 SO 165
24 BB 36
8 HR 19
vs. SF -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Chris Volstad 1-9 14 14 0 0 0 0 76.0 88 55 53 8 24 44 6.28 1.47


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Madison Bumgarner 14-8 26 26 2 1 0 0 178.0 145 64 58 19 36 165 2.93 1.02

Chris Volstad won in his last start. You don't really expect him to do that again, do you? He has not faced the Giants this year; he did so twice in 2011, posting a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings. Current Giants are hitting .291 (23-for-79) against him with two home runs (Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt). Sounds like we'll get another of those typical Volstad starts; decent for a few innings, then POW! Plus, it's not raining today like it was Sunday.

Madison Bumgarner threw eight strong innings against the Cubs June 1 in San Francisco. He struck out 11 Cubs, which seems to be the thing to do this week. Current Cubs, though, are hitting .348 against him, though in a small-sample-size 16-for-46. Bumgarner looks sad in that photo. Maybe the Cubs can keep him sad.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago.

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 Giants site McCovey Chronicles.

Today's first pitch thread will post at 1:20 p.m. CDT and the overflows at 2:20, 3:20 and 4:05 p.m. CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section. Also please note: due to some under-the-hood changes, the sidebar box with the game thread links is no longer available. It seems you've found them with no problems, but if you haven't been able to find the overflow threads, click the "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" link under "Sections" on the left sidebar. They're all in there.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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