Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds Preview, Thursday 8/9, 7:05 CT

What are these men thinking? Post your answer in the comments. San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Brett Jackson and center fielder Joe Mather walk to the dugout stairs after the San Diego Padres beat the Cubs 2-0 at Petco Park. Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

The Cubs open play today 22 games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who are in first place in the NL Central. The Reds have won 66 games; the Cubs have lost 66. That means the Cubs' elimination number for the division title is 31; if the Reds sweep this four-game series (a distinct possibility), the elimination number would be reduced to 23.

That would give the Cubs a fair shot at being mathematically eliminated before September 1. Obviously, this Cubs team never really had any shot at the playoffs, but the mathematical elimination day is still one to note. The last time a Cubs team was mathematically eliminated from postseason competition before September 1 was in 1966, when they lost to the Reds 7-5 on August 31 and the Pirates and Giants, then tied for first place, both won.

As noted yesterday, a loss tonight would also make this just the second team in Cubs history to have two losing streaks of nine games or longer in the same season. That happened in 1954; that team had an 11-game losing streak in June, and then a 10-game skid in August. Sound familiar?

Having said all this, there's a fairly good chance of a rainout tonight. Since this is a night game and the other three dates are afternoon games on which split doubleheaders cannot be played (no night games Friday or Saturday, and you wouldn't do it Sunday on getaway day for the Reds), if there's a rainout tonight I'd expect the game would be made up on the Reds' next visit in September.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus RF, Barney 2B, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Jackson CF, Clevenger C, Volstad P

Reds lineup:

Cozart SS, Stubbs CF, Phillips 2B, Ludwick LF, Bruce RF, Frazier 3B, Cairo 1B, Mesoraco C, Leake P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Chris Volstad
Chris Volstad
vs. Mike Leake
Mike Leake
0-8 W-L 4-7
7.22 ERA 4.51
30 SO 86
18 BB 29
5 HR 17
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

2012 - Chris Volstad 0-8 10 10 0 0 0 0 52.1 64 44 42 5 18 30 7.22 1.57

2012 - Mike Leake 4-7 23 21 1 0 0 0 125.2 139 69 63 17 29 86 4.51 1.34

Chris Volstad's last outing was really good, even though the Cubs lost the game. His last outing against the Reds April 20 at Wrigley Field, though, not so much. Current Reds are 22-for-69 (.319) against Volstad with two home runs. Doomed? Probably.

The Cubs hit Mike Leake pretty hard April 21 at Wrigley Field. Most of the players who did that hitting are even still on the team! Current Cubs are 24-for-69 (.348) against Leake with two home runs, although that includes the inside-the-park job that Tony Campana hit (that probably shouldn't be included in that list, because Campana is at Iowa) last year. Doomed? Maybe not.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago.

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter. The usual caution is advised.

Today's first pitch thread will post at 7:05 p.m. CDT and the overflows at 8:05, 9:05 and 9:50 p.m. 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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