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Open Thread: Cubs vs. Brewers, Tuesday 8/28, 7:05 CT

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Seems like it's been forever since the Cubs played, doesn't it? If you're antsy to see a game today, imagine how the players must feel. The entire NL Central was off yesterday, and all six teams will play inside the division today, including a Reds/Pirates doubleheader (go Pirates!).

Here are a few morning headlines to whet your appetite, and this will also serve as tonight's game thread:

Bob Howry says Cubs fans are better than Red Sox fans. He should know, too: he played there for parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons, though not in the postseason for the ill-fated 2003 team.

Is Alfonso Soriano coming back too soon? Yes, says Carol Slezak:

Soriano was able to convince the training staff and Piniella that he's healthy enough to play. But whose idea was it to put him back in the leadoff spot? What is Piniella thinking? Ryan Theriot has done a good job filling in for him at the top of the order. Why mess with one of the few spots in the lineup that worked during his absence?

And why put a tender-legged Soriano at the top of the order when stealing bases or running out an infield hit is the last thing he should be thinking about at this point? Wouldn't it make more sense to bat him lower in the lineup, especially since the Cubs need more production from the middle of the order?

Excuse me for being a worrywort. With any luck, Soriano will make a problem-free return, the offense will start clicking and the Cubs will widen their lead on the Brewers and Cardinals. But given their history with injuries to marquee players in recent years -- from Wood and Prior to Sammy Sosa's big sneeze -- I can't help but be concerned.

The Cubs were 8-11 without Soriano. Yes, Theriot did a good job leading off. But it's time for Soriano to show the power he's lacked most of the year. His SB game is likely done for the year with this injury and the hamstring that he hurt in April that's probably still bothering him. If he hits the ball out of the ballpark, he can run around the bases as slowly as he wants to.

Bruce Miles compares this series to a similar "three nights in August" the Cubs had on nearly the same calendar dates in 2003, and says they'll sweep it. Hope you're right, Bruce.

Who's going to start for Milwaukee on Wednesday and Thursday? Could Ben Sheets return? (The Cubs should hope so: Sheets has a 4.76 ERA vs. them this year.)

And in case you were wondering about the story behind the difference in the spelling of "DEROSA" on Mark's home and road jerseys, our girl Carrie has the scoop:

The clubhouse attendants were not aware of the difference, but DeRosa noticed it right away. He would prefer to have it spelled with the small "E" as it is on his road jersey. But, he said, "I'm just thankful to have a jersey."
Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Hill
R. Hill
Cubs
vs. Jeff Suppan
J. Suppan
Brewers
7-7 W-L 8-11
3.67 ERA 4.85
145 SO 85
51 BB 57
24 HR 14
vs. Mil -- vs. Cubs
Rich Hill threw a fine game in his last start at San Francisco against fellow curveballer Barry Zito, but got a no-decision when the game went into extra innings. Hill's got 11 no-decisions in his 25 starts; only Matt Chico of the Nationals has more no-decisions (13) among pitchers with that many or more starts. Oddly, the Nats have a winning record, 13-12, in games Chico has started, even though he is 5-7. The Cubs are 11-14 in games Hill has started, and he has allowed two or fewer runs in five of the seven no-decisions that turned into losses. Conclusion: Hill's put his team in a position to win with his pitching, and the bullpen has failed.

Jeff Suppan shut out the Cubs for 8 innings on April 24 at Wrigley Field, but they cuffed him around pretty good on June 6 in Milwaukee; this doesn't jibe with his overall record, which is better at home (5-3, 3.97) than on the road (3-8, 5.68). He hasn't won since June 22, and will be facing two guys who hit him hard (Derrek Lee, 15-for-33, 5 doubles, 3 HR, .455/.571/.879) and Jacque Jones (12-for-42, .286/.444/.571, 4 HR and twelve (!) walks).

Baseball-reference.com preview for tonight's game with more stats than you can possibly ever use.

Today's cable-only telecast is also available at the MLB Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2006 version)

MLB.com Gameday for today's Reds/Pirates doubleheader game 1 (4:05 pm CT start time)

MLB.com Gameday for today's Reds/Pirates doubleheader game 2

MLB.com Gameday for today's Astros/Cardinals game (7:05 pm CT start time)

Discuss amongst yourselves.