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There's No Place Like Home: Cubs vs. Marlins, Thursday 4/30, 7:05 CT

That is, if it doesn't rain tonight. As of now it looks like there may be enough of a break to get the game in.

If they do play, and the Cubs win tonight, they will have a winning record for April (11-10). The last time the Cubs had a losing April was... 2007, when they were 10-14. That year worked out OK (well, at least till October). Last year, the Cubs looked like they were going to lose three of four to the Marlins at Wrigley Field when they trailed 5-0 after the top of the third in the final game of the series. Instead, the bats suddenly came alive; they tied the game on a three-run homer by Aramis Ramirez in the 4th and won 9-6, starting a 25-6 stretch. It'd be nice to replicate that beginning tonight.

Meanwhile, think about the 10-10 start this way: let's say someone had told you, just before Opening Day, that the hitters expected to hit 3-4-5-6 in the lineup would have made 51 combined starts out of a possible 80; that Ryan Dempster would be walking people like he did in 2001; that Kevin Gregg would have a 5.62 ERA, and that the Cubs would have let go their only relief pitcher with an ERA of 0.00. What would you have said the team record would have been? About 5-15, right? So 10-10, given the circumstances, isn't too bad.

Is MLB attendance down in 2009? Yes, Jayson Stark says, but look how much:
Guess how much lower the average crowd at a major league baseball game was this April than it was last April. Go ahead. Just guess.

Before we go on, we should tell you that we're not including the two New York teams in this question because their new parks aren't the same size as their old parks. OK, got that? Great. Now take a guess. How much lower?

Five percent? Ten percent? Fifteen percent?

Uh, how about 287?

No, not 287 percent, obviously.

Would you believe 287 people?

We kid you not. The average crowd at a baseball game this April was just 287 customers smaller than the average game last April -- even with one fewer weekend to draw from.

As Stark says, some comparisons that have been made so far to 2008 aren't fair because the two new NYC parks this year are both smaller than their predecessors (not to mention the ridiculously-priced premium seats that have gone mostly unsold). We won't likely know much about whether MLB is weathering the recession until we see whether midsummer games that would normally sell well, have lower attendance or not. Many teams are even with or up over last year's numbers at this time.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Sean Marshall
Sean Marshall
vs. Chris Volstad
Chris Volstad
0-1 W-L 2-0
4.50 ERA 2.70
9 SO 22
4 BB 12
1 HR 3
vs. Fla -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Sean Marshall 0-1 4 2 0 0 0 0 12.0 13 6 6 1 4 9 4.50 1.42

2009 - Chris Volstad 2-0 4 4 0 0 0 0 23.1 15 9 7 3 12 22 2.70 1.16

Chris Volstad started twice vs. the Cubs last year, on July 26 at Wrigley Field, a Marlins win, and August 17 in Miami, a Cubs win. He allowed six hits and two earned runs in both games but got a decision in neither. The only Cub to homer off him was Aramis Ramirez, who, of course, probably won't be playing tonight.

Sean Marshall pitched decently enough in both his starts, both against St. Louis, both losses (only one loss to Sean; in the other he left leading 4-3 and the bullpen blew the game). Hanley Ramirez, who is 4-for-10 lifetime vs. Sean, will probably return tonight (80 percent chance, says manager Fredi Gonzalez). Lifetime Marshall is 1-3, 4.38 in five games (four starts) vs. Florida.

Today's game is the first of six this year (the next one will be on Monday) that only Chicago-area viewers can see on WCIU. It should also be available on EI via FSN Florida. If you are in one of Bud's Blackout Areas, you are probably out of luck tonight, though. I'd appreciate reports from the field nationally on whether you can see this game or not. For more see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

For the Marlins fan point of view, please visit our SB Nation Marlins site, Fish Stripes. They seem a little lonely over there. Go visit. (Be nice.)

Discuss amongst yourselves.