Dead-cat bounce? Or real change in ability?
The Cubs won five of six on the last homestand, and have a 15-14 record at home. On the road, though, they're not nearly as good: 10-21, and they lost two of three to the Pirates in the season-opening series at PNC Park in April, both in extra innings. That reflected failure on the part of Carlos Villanueva, primarily, who was charged with both losses, but the Cubs also scored only six runs in the three games. That covered 36 innings, too, with the two extra-inning games.
The Cubs have had trouble scoring runs on the road in general this year. In the 29 home games they've scored 119 runs (4.1 per game). In the 31 road games, it's 115 runs (3.7 per game). That isn't a huge difference, but the road numbers are skewed by a 17-run game at St. Louis and a 12-run game at the Cell. Apart from those two, they're averaging just 2.97 runs per game on the road and have been outscored 126-86 in the other 29 road games.
The Pirates seem vulnerable this year, but a lot of their current 29-33 record is due to missing Russell Martin. The Bucs credited Martin with helping their pitching staff a lot during their playoff year in 2013. The Pirates are 16-12 with Martin starting this year, 13-21 without. He won't be in the lineup tonight, so maybe that's good for the Cubs.
One more Cub-related note: Ryan Sweeney, who has been rehabbing in Mesa at extended spring training, is joining the Kane County Cougars starting tonight on a rehab assignment. He could possibly be activated by the end of the week, which would likely spell the end of Chris Coghlan in a Cubs uniform.
Bonifacio 2B, Lake CF, Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Schierholtz RF, Coghlan LF, Baker C, Jackson P
Harrison RF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Davis 1B, Alvarez 3B, Marte LF, Mercer SS, Stewart C, Morton P
Today's Starting Pitchers
These two pitchers faced each other April 2 in Pittsburgh. Jackson threw reasonably well (except for the four walks) and Morton threw six shutout innings, but both were long gone by the time the Pirates won the game in the 16th inning.
Jackson, as you know, has had an up-and-down year. Sometimes he looks great. Other times -- not so much. Charlie Morton has had a pretty good year (3.32 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, 4.03 FIP), but his 2-7 W/L record (Pirates are 5-7 in his starts) is largely due, as is Jeff Samardzija's, from poor run support. In Morton's 12 starts, the Pirates have scored 42 runs -- and 10 of those runs were in his last outing, so he ranks 111th of 130 qualified starters in run support (Shark is 129th).
We could have another low-scoring game tonight. Hopefully, not another 16-inning marathon.
Today's game is on WCIU. WCIU games can also be seen on the following channels: Springfield/Decatur/Champaign, WCIX 49.2; Peoria, WAOE 59.1; Des Moines, WHO 13.2; Quad Cities (Davenport/Moline), WQAD 8.2 or 8.3; Ft. Wayne, WANE 15.2; South Bend, WMYS 69; Rockford, WTVO 17.2; Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City-Dubuque KCRG 9.2.
For 2014, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as 2013. Here's how it works.
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.