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A Pennant Race Test: Cubs vs. Reds Preview, Friday 8/27, 6:10 CT

Yes, I know the Cubs aren't in a pennant race.

But this series is new manager Mike Quade's first test in playing a team that is in one. The Reds were the choice of many to come out of the pack and contend this year, and Dusty Baker's bunch has fulfilled that prediction. This is nothing against Dusty -- glad for him that he's doing well -- but I have the nagging sense that the Reds have had quite a bit of luck go their way this year, and that may not continue. Mike Leake, so good early in the year, went to the bullpen recently, got pounded by the Giants, and might be shut down for the season. The Reds are 25-10 against the Cubs, Pirates and Astros, 48-44 against everyone else. That is one way you can win -- beat up on teams at the bottom of the standings, split against the others, but the Reds got blown out twice by the Giants and nearly blew a big lead yesterday.

In any case, this series will be interesting to watch, just to see how Quade's team and managing style does against a club better than the Nationals -- although after the Cubs held the Nats to five runs in three games, the Nats scored 11 against the Cardinals last night. Incidentally, over the last two weeks, the Cardinals have lost eight of their last 11.

One more playoff note: if the season ended today, only two of last year's playoff teams (Yankees and Twins) would be making a return visit. And of the other six, two of them (Reds and Padres) had losing records a year ago, and the Reds haven't finished over .500 since 2000. This, I believe, is good for baseball.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Tom Gorzelanny
Tom Gorzelanny
vs. Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto
7-7 W-L 11-4
3.70 ERA 3.62
110 SO 104
56 BB 47
7 HR 16
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

2010 - Tom Gorzelanny 7-7 25 19 0 0 1 0 119.1 117 57 49 7 56 110 3.70 1.45

2010 - Johnny Cueto 11-4 24 24 1 1 0 0 144.1 139 60 58 16 47 104 3.62 1.29

Johnny Cueto threw five shutout innings at the Cubs on July 3 at Wrigley Field, but had to be pulled after allowing 12 baserunners and throwing 101 pitches. The Cubs, who have been leaving ridiculous numbers of runners on base this year, left 10 on base in the first five innings that day, but won anyway, the only game the Cubs have won vs. the Reds since July 1. Current Cubs are hitting .343 (35-for-102) against Cueto with eight homers.

Tom Gorzelanny has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs this year. He threw well in his only start vs. the Reds this year, giving up only an unearned run in 6.1 innings on April 11 in Cincinnati. Gorz has gone at least six innings in 14 of his 19 starts, and one of the ones he missed was the game he was hit in the shoulder by a line drive. He has held current Reds to a .216 average (22-for-102) and though Joey Votto has homered off him, Votto' totals are 2-for-13.

Cubs lineup via tweet from CubsInsider:

#Cubs lineup @ #Reds (8/27): DeWitt 2B, Castro SS, Byrd CF, Ramirez 3B, Nady 1B, Colvin RF, Soriano LF, Soto C, Gorzelanny P

Reds lineup via Reds beat writer BJ Rains:

Reds lineup tonight (no Phillips) - Bruce RF Chris Valaika 2B Votto 1B Rolen 3B Gomes LF Hernandez C Stubbs CF Janish SS Johnny Cueto P

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Ohio. Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 6 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 7:15 pm, 8:15 pm and 9 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.