Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Tuesday 9/24, 7:05 CT: More Pennant-Race Baseball

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates clinched a postseason spot Monday, but they still have a chance to win the N.L. Central. Vicarious thrills, I know. But it's something.

The N.L. Central standings among the leaders didn't change after Monday's games as all three playoff-bound teams won. That leaves the Cardinals in first place, two games ahead of both the Pirates and Reds.

In order for there to be a three-way tie, either the Pirates or Reds have to play one game better than the other over the next two days, so that they enter their season-ending series in Cincinnati separated by one game. That way, a two-of-three series result would wind up in a tie, if the trailing team wins a pair. If the two teams wind up tied, they'd face each other in the wild-card game -- and the host would be the season-series winner. The Reds and Pirates are 8-8 against each other this year, so the series winner this weekend would host...

... unless the Cardinals also wind up tied with them, which is possible if the Nationals can take the next two games from St. Louis and the Cubs can also help out. The Cubs are 3-4 in St. Louis this year and won the last series they played there -- so anything's still possible.

I'm rooting for a three-way tie, which would be the first such tie in major-league history. Fun!

Cubs lineup:

Castro SS, Lake LF, Rizzo 1B, Navarro C, Schierholtz RF, Murphy 3B, Bogusevic CF, Watkins 2B, Rusin P

Look! Look! Look! Logan Watkins is getting a start against a contending team! He'll probably go 3-for-4 again and get benched tomorrow.

Pirates lineup:

Marte LF, Mercer SS, McCutchen CF, Byrd RF, Sanchez 1B, Martin C, Alvarez 3B, Harrison 2B, Cole P

Marlon Byrd, hitting cleanup for a 90-win team bound for the playoffs. No, you did not predict that before the season started.

Today's Starting Pitchers

Chris Rusin

Chris Rusin


Cubs

vs. Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole


Pirates

vs. Pit

--

vs. Cubs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Chris Rusin 2-5 12 12 0 0 0 0 64.0 60 26 25 7 23 35 3.52 1.30


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Gerrit Cole 9-7 18 18 0 0 0 0 111.1 102 41 40 7 27 94 3.23 1.16

One of Chris Rusin's best starts of this year was against the Pirates, September 12 in Pittsburgh; he gave up just four hits and two runs and didn't walk anyone, throwing just 79 pitches. The Pirates have been offensively-challenged lately and were Monday night; if Rusin can keep his pitches down, this could be a really good sendoff to his 2013 season.

Gerrit Cole is making his 19th major-league start. One of the previous 18 was against the Cubs, September 14 in Pittsburgh. He gave up five hits and one run in seven innings; the Cubs' bullpen lost that game. I would look for another low-scoring game tonight, perhaps even another 2-1 contest.

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.

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