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Remember The NL Central? Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Monday 6/29, 6:05 CT

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Interleague play is now over, except for the tentatively-but-not-officially-rescheduled-for-September-3 Cubs/White Sox game from the May 16 rainout. The Cubs are 6-8 in interleague this year, pending that game. Once again, the AL dominated interleague play. Only five NL teams finished with winning interleague records (Marlins, 10-8; Cardinals, 9-6; Pirates, 8-7; Giants, 9-6, and Rockies, 11-4). Even the Dodgers, still running away with the NL West, only played .500 (9-9) in interleague.

The Cubs have 13 games until the All-Star break; ten of these will be against teams from the NL Central (the three vs. Atlanta next week are the only ones that are outside the division). At two games under .500, it'd be nice to go at least 8-5 in those 13 games to reach the break with a winning record. However, let me point out that of the three Cub playoff teams in this decade, only one (last year's) reached the All-Star break with anything resembling a good record. The 2007 team was 44-43 and 4.5 games out of first place at the break, and the 2003 team was 47-47 and 3 games out.

There's still time. But this club needs to start playing to its capabilities, get Aramis Ramirez back at even 85% of full strength, go out and get another hitter and some bullpen help, and focus on baseball. Enough of the off-field soap opera.

I'm not even going to link to Phil Rogers' silly column about waiving Carlos Zambrano. That's another of Phil's "heat of the moment" idiocies. Z just has to get his head on straight and live up to his considerable talent.

What I am going to do again... is ask for civility here. I have received numerous emails over the weekend with various complaints about personal attacks and profanity in the game threads. While I understand we are all frustrated with this team's performance -- I'm no exception to that -- all I ask is that you keep those two things out of the game thread (and other thread) discussion. Also, I know there are quite a few new posters here, and some of the posts recently have, quite frankly, gotten away from the types of posts that help further the discussion here. If you are new, we welcome you -- but I also ask that you please read all the posts under "BCB Specials & Site Info" on the right sidebar that have to do with posting tips and suggestions. Following the ideas in those posts will help you make better posts.

Lineup via Twittermyer:

Soriano, lf; Theriot, ss; Lee, 1b; Fox, 3b; Soto, c; Bradley, rf; Freel, cf; Blanco, 2b; Harden, p
Today's Starting Pitchers
Rich Harden
Rich Harden
Cubs
vs. Zach Duke
Zach Duke
Pirates
4-4 W-L 8-5
4.95 ERA 3.09
67 SO 51
30 BB 25
15 HR 10
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Rich Harden 4-4 12 11 0 0 0 0 60.0 54 37 33 13 30 67 4.95 1.40


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Zach Duke 8-5 16 15 2 1 0 0 105.0 100 38 36 10 25 51 3.09 1.19

Zach Duke is 4-5, 3.03 in 14 career starts against the Cubs, but has not beaten them at all since shutting out that horrific 2006 team on May 2, 2006. He pitched seven good innings at Wrigley Field on May 27, but left in a 2-2 tie and the Pirates bullpen blew the game (hmmm. Sound familiar?) It would seem that Duke would be a guy that Alfonso Soriano would love to see to break his slump. Soriano is 15-for-29 (.517) lifetime vs. Duke with four doubles and two HR.

Rich Harden: please give us the 2008 version of yourself. He's 0-3, 5.64 in his last four starts. Tonight will be his first career start against the Pirates; the only Buc he has faced for more than two at-bats is ex-Cub farmhand Eric Hinske (4-for-14, 2 HR).

Today's game is on WCIU. That means it can be seen within a three-block radius of their headquarters downtown. Maybe this is a good thing, considering the recent play of the team. The FSN Pittsburgh feed should be available on EI. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SBN Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.