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Opening Night 2010: Cubs vs. Nationals Preview, Monday 4/26, 7:05 CT

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Tonight is the Cubs' first home night game of the season. By city ordinance, the Cubs are permitted 30 night dates a season; the schedule currently lists 26 night games, with the possibility that a couple more dates might be added on Sunday nights later in the season. If the Cubs do go ahead with their two concert dates on September 17 and 18 in the evening, those also count as two of the night dates they are permitted.

The Nationals lost 103 games last year and 102 games in 2008. Before that, the last NL team to lose 100 or more games two years in a row was the Padres, who lost 102 in both 1973 and 1974.

I'm not here to bury the Nats, instead to praise them -- they may not stay over .500 all year (currently 10-9), but they are a much improved team from the 2009 version. Having Pudge Rodriguez catching may be helping at least some members of the Nats pitching staff, and their offense is generating runs at a decent clip (84 runs, just about league average).

The Cubs can't afford to take this team lightly, especially considering they came into Wrigley Field last August when they were on their way to that 103-loss season and won two of three.

Meanwhile, if you are concerned about Aramis Ramirez's .139/.203/.292 start, a reminder that Derrek Lee had an very similar start last year over almost the same number of plate appearances (79 so far for A-Ram, 83 for D-Lee). Lee was hitting .189/.253/.284 on April 30 after those 83 PA. The 23 K that Ramirez has so far are a bit alarming -- but remember, when D-Lee started May with those numbers, people here were clamoring for him to be replaced by Micah Hoffpauir. Good thing the Cubs didn't do that, as Lee had one of his best seasons even with the bad start. Ramirez will be fine.

This MLB.com game preview says, of Carlos Zambrano's last relief appearance before last Saturday:

His last relief outing at Wrigley Field came on June 28, 2002.

Incorrect. Z's relief appearance on June 28, 2002 took place at the Cell vs. the White Sox, a famous game where the Cubs blew an 8-0 lead and lost 13-9. Z threw only 1/3 of an inning that day, but he and Francis Beltran were the only Cub pitchers not charged with a run.

Z's last relief appearance at Wrigley Field was on June 26, 2002, 1.2 scoreless innings of relief in an 8-6 loss to the Reds. (And look who relieved him: Juan Cruz.) You may very well see him tonight, in which case Carlos (Zambrano) would relieve Carlos (Silva), possibly followed by Carlos (Marmol).

And one more thing, before heading on to the pitcher preview: LET'S GO BLACKHAWKS!

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Silva
Carlos Silva
Cubs
vs. John Lannan
John Lannan
Nationals
2-0 W-L 1-1
0.95 ERA 5.82
12 SO 9
2 BB 10
1 HR 3
vs. Wash -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carlos Silva 2-0 3 3 0 0 0 0 19.0 10 4 2 1 2 12 0.95 .63


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - John Lannan 1-1 4 4 0 0 0 0 21.2 31 14 14 3 10 9 5.82 1.89

John Lannan is another of those soft-tossing lefties who usually give the Cubs fits, although they seem to have finally figured out Doug Davis. Lannan has made three career starts vs. the Cubs, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.15 ERA; the Cubs beat him for the first time last July 16 in Washington. Lannan appears to be having some control problems this year so far -- he has walked 10 in only 21.2 innings and has an ugly 1.89 WHIP. D-Lee is 4-for-8 with 2 HR against Lannan.

Carlos Silva has faced the Nats only once in his career, June 6, 2007, in interleague play while he was with the Twins. It was a bad start, but largely irrelevant because only two players (Cristian Guzman, who went 2-for-4 vs. Silva that day, and Ryan Zimmerman) who played for the Nats in that game are still on the team. The Nat Silva has faced most is Ivan Rodriguez, who he has handled well: 7-for-33 (.212), no HR. The cool weather tonight should help Silva's sinker.

Tonight's game is on CSN Plus -- the Blackhawks have the main CSN channel tonight -- and on MASN. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball -- one of my favorite site names.

This afternoon's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 8, 9 and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.