Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Friday 9/14, 1:20 CT

A rare 2012 scene: Chicago Cubs fans raise the "W" after defeating the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Chicago won 5-1. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Cubs broadcasters and marketers have a tough time selling a product like this year's team in September. I remember Jack Brickhouse trying to sell tickets on the WGN broadcasts, "22,000 unreserved grandstand and bleacher seats available for every game!" And for many of those 1960s era games, when the team was bad, almost all of those 22,000 went unsold.

But hey! We have playoff contenders coming in for this homestand, all divisional rivals!

Aw, who am I kidding. This homestand is likely to have the smallest in-house crowds in many, many years, with the possible exception of the Cardinals series next weekend. Oh, and one more thing: the Reds, who come into town Tuesday, have a magic number to clinch the NL Central of 8. There's a pretty good chance we'll have to witness the Reds celebrating a division title clinching at Wrigley.

All excited for this series yet? At least the weather's going to be nice. Through Sunday, at least.

Cubs lineup:

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

Both Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are healthy and back in today's lineup.

Pirates lineup was not in at the time I wrote this post. Check the BCB Twitter feed for the Pirates lineup.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Chris Rusin
Chris Rusin
Cubs
vs. James McDonald
James McDonald
Pirates
0-2 W-L 12-7
5.73 ERA 3.93
9 SO 149
6 BB 64
3 HR 20
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Chris Rusin 0-2 3 3 0 0 0 0 11.0 14 7 7 3 6 9 5.73 1.82


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - James McDonald 12-7 31 28 1 0 0 0 167.1 140 78 73 20 64 149 3.93 1.22

Chris Rusin threw five pretty good innings against the Pirates Sunday at PNC Park, although he issued four walks and had to wiggle out of trouble several times. The Cubs won the game. Andrew McCutchen homered off Rusin, but then, McCutchen has homered off a lot of pitchers this year.

The Cubs hit James McDonald pretty hard last Saturday in Pittsburgh. They also hit him pretty well July 24 at PNC. McDonald has not faced the Cubs at Wrigley Field since September 1, 2010 (boxscore for amusement value only). Could we be un-doomed today?

Today's game is on WGN.

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 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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