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Pregame Thread: Cubs vs. Astros, Tuesday 9/2, 7:05 CT

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Houston Astros
@ Chicago Cubs

Tuesday, Sep 2, 2008, 7:05 PM CDT
Wrigley Field

Brandon Backe vs Carlos Zambrano

Clear. Winds blowing out to left field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game Time temperature: Around 85.

Complete Coverage >

Back in 1978, the Cubs briefly contended despite having a team that hit only 72 HR (2nd to last in the NL), and only one player with more than nine (Dave Kingman, 28; and a pitcher, Dave Roberts, had more HR -- 2 in 52 AB -- than the regular CF, Greg Gross, had in 347 AB: one). It was dubbed the "Rush Street Offense" (lots of singles, no action).

This year's Cubs have not had that problem -- until the last three days, all losses. The last extra-base hit was Alfonso Soriano's game-winning HR on Friday. Since then they have had 27 singles and three walks, and have scored five runs in the three games.

It's time for the offense to wake up. Like, now.

Clarification: this was discussed in this morning's thread, and someone posted the correct info (cwyers, I believe), but I wanted it on the front page. MLB scorers are MLB employees, not employees of the clubs. Many of them are former sportswriters. It's still my feeling that they should be a "fifth umpire", and such a person could also assist with replays.

A few photos from the last two days:

The organist played 'Please Don't Take My Sunshine Away'
Shane Victorino loses Ronny Cedeno's popup in the sun in the 2nd inning on Sunday

Run, Geo! Run!
Geovany Soto takes 2nd on a wild pitch in the 8th inning on Sunday, eventually scoring the third Cub run

Proof! He CAN play SS!
Mark DeRosa, shortstop

Nice grab!
Kosuke Fukudome catches a popup by Shane Victorino, the last out in the top of the 9th on Sunday

You'll always remember the Cubs lost on your wedding day
Rooftop wedding on Monday

Run, Alfonso! Run!
Alfonso Soriano chases Miguel Tejada's triple...

Is that thing ever gonna stop rolling?
... for a really, really long time.

Click on photos to open a larger version in a new browser window. All photos by David Sameshima

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
vs. Brandon Backe

13-5 W-L 9-12
3.53 ERA 5.42
114 SO 122
61 BB 72
16 HR 29
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

2008 - Carlos Zambrano 13-5 26 26 0 0 0 0 168.1 158 69 66 16 61 114 3.53 1.30

2008 - Brandon Backe 9-12 28 28 0 0 0 0 159.1 179 98 96 29 72 122 5.42 1.58

Tonight's game is a pitching rematch of this April 6 game at Wrigley Field, where D-Lee's 7th inning HR off Oscar Villareal (who isn't even on the Astros any more) won the game for Z. Backe had been lifted the inning before. Since then, Backe has thrown two other games vs. the Cubs and got hit hard and lost and got the living daylights beat out of him and lost. Backe is 2nd in the NL in HR allowed and the Cubs have hit four off him in 16 IP this year. He's also tied for 7th in the NL in walks allowed -- so if the Cubs can relax and go back to their patient ways at the plate from earlier this year, the offense should wake up.

Z needs to settle down now that it's September. After a bad August last year he was 4-2, 3.44 in September; doing the same this year would be, well, useful. The only real Houston nemesis for Z was Carlos Lee, and he's out of this series.

Today's game is on WGN and also on EI via FSN Houston For more games, see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

Once again, a reminder that you can find the overflow comment threads, including the first pitch thread, on the right sidebar of both the front page and any interior page in the box headed "RECENT STORIES IN GAME THREADS". Today's first pitch thread posts at 7 pm CT, and the overflow comment threads will post at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.