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Open Thread: Cubs vs. Pirates, Sunday 9/9, 12:35 CT

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The 2007 regular season will end three weeks from today. And yet, even this late in the year, there are still ten National League teams within 4.5 games of a playoff spot. This is unprecedented and could make for a real wild finish.

So fasten your seat belts and hang on for the ride. I, for one, was very pleased to wake up this morning to discover that the Cardinals had blown their early four-run lead and lost to Arizona 9-8.

Meanwhile, Lou must have read last night's recap, because he's thinking about holding Z back till Friday:

Steve Trachsel will go Sunday in Pittsburgh, with Ted Lilly facing St. Louis' Joel Piniero on Monday at Wrigley Field. Jason Marquis and Rich Hill will go Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston.

Piniella is tinkering with starting rookie Kevin Hart on Thursday in Houston, with Carlos Zambrano possibly getting an extra day of rest to face St. Louis on Friday. Trachsel and Sean Marshall will start in Saturday's doubleheader at Busch Stadium, with Lilly slated for Sept. 16 against the Cardinals.

Marshall hasn't pitched since his last start Aug. 31.

"We've freshened up his arm," Piniella said. "But we need to get him a little work."

If Zambrano pitches Friday, he will be able to start on four days' rest Sept. 19 against Cincinnati at Wrigley and on five Sept. 25 at Florida. He then would be able to start the season finale Sept. 30 at Cincinnati. Or if the Cubs are assured of a playoff spot, they can hold him out for the first postseason game.

That works for me. Meanwhile, there's a game to be won this afternoon, weather permitting.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Steve Trachsel
S. Trachsel
Cubs
vs. Matt Morris
M. Morris
Pirates
6-9 W-L 8-9
4.48 ERA 4.54
48 SO 93
70 BB 58
16 HR 15
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs
Today's veteran pitchers have combined for 673 major league starts. They have faced each other only twice -- on June 25, 1997, when Morris was a Cardinal and Trachsel in his first go-around with the Cubs; and June 4, 2006, with Morris a Giant and Trachsel a Met.

A little more than a year after that last meeting, both pitchers are with new teams and the game has great meaning, at least for the Cubs. After going 11-3, 3.82 in 24 appearances vs. the Cubs from 1997-2004, Morris has become a favorite Cub whipping boy since 2005; he is 0-5, 7.86 vs. the Cubs since then, including giving the Cubs twelve hits and eight runs at Wrigley Field on July 19.

Several Cubs hit Morris very, very hard. Derrek Lee is 10-for-28 (.357/.438/.893, 4 HR), and Aramis Ramirez 15-for-43 (.349/.383/.628, 3 HR).

Trachsel is only 5-8 lifetime vs. the Pirates, but with a decent 3.16 ERA. The last time he faced them was on July 6, 2006, a 7-5 win while with the Mets.

Once again there is no Pittsburgh TV coverage of the game, but it is on CSN, so it should be on EI, and also at today's Mediacenter link.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2006 version)

MLB.com Gameday for the Brewers/Reds game (12:15 CT start)

MLB.com Gameday for the Cardinals/Diamondbacks game (3:40 CT start) Here's what to root for if you are following this game: for the game to go eighteen innings. As it is, the Cardinals aren't likely to arrive in Chicago till midnight. If the game runs long, they might not arrive till 3 or 4 in the morning.

Discuss amongst yourselves.