Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Monday 9/23, 7:05 CT: Another Meaningful Game

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates come to town close to clinching their first postseason spot in 21 seasons.

The Pirates come to town trailing the N.L. Central lead by two games, but also in prime position to clinch their first playoff spot since 1992. On the other hand, they had a rough weekend at home against the Reds and have lost five of their last seven games.

The Cubs need to win two of the three games in this series to avoid 50 home losses for the first time in franchise history.

It will be a cool evening with temperatures in the 50s, the coolest night game since June. That ought to make it a pitchers' night, and both these offenses have struggled lately. The Pirates have scored 26 runs in that five-losses-in-seven-games run, less than four per game, and 10 of those were in one game against the Padres. The Cubs' offensive lack of prowess should be well known to all of you; the Cubs have also lost five of their last seven and in those seven, have scored just 19 runs.

The Pirates are ninth in run-scoring in the N.L. and the Cubs are 13th.

Now that I've said all of this, we'll probably get an 11-10 game tonight.

Cubs lineup:

Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Rizzo 1B, Navarro C, Schierholtz RF, Sweeney CF, Bogusevic LF, Barney 2B, Samardzija P

Pirates lineup:

Tabata LF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Morneau 1B, Byrd RF, Alvarez 3B, Martin C, Mercer SS, Morton P

Today's Starting Pitchers

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija


Cubs

vs. Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton


Pirates

vs. Pit

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Jeff Samardzija 8-12 31 31 2 1 0 0 201.2 197 105 99 24 74 203 4.42 1.34


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Charlie Morton 7-4 18 18 0 0 0 0 104.2 105 48 39 6 30 77 3.35 1.29

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings against the Pirates Opening Day in Pittsburgh and it looked like he was headed for a dominant season. Instead, Shark's 2013 has been something of a disappointment and he'll have to have two solid starts this week to get his ERA down from a mediocre 4.42 (it's 4.60 since that Opening Day start). Current Pirates are hitting .213 (33-for-155) against him with just two HR (Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker) so, on what is expected to be a cool evening, perhaps Shark can shut them down.

Charlie Morton has made two starts against the Cubs this year, neither one of them all that good (total 11 innings, seven earned runs allowed). Current Cubs are hitting .364 against Morton (20-for-55) with one home run (Brian Bogusevic). Perhaps we're not doomed tonight.

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 Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

Here's the scoop on game threads for 2013. You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.

You will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at five minutes before game time (moved up from actual game time per your requests), then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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