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Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros Preview, Tuesday 4/12, 7:05 CT: A Parable

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Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a baseball player named Jeff Russell. He spent most of his first six seasons in the major leagues shuttling back and forth between the starting rotation for the Reds and Rangers, and their bullpens, with ... well, not very much success. In 79 career games started, he was 22-37 with a 4.47 ERA.

In 1989 -- after the Rangers had dealt closer Mitch Williams to the Cubs -- Texas made Jeff Russell their closer. He was an instant success -- he led the AL with 38 saves, made the All-Star team and finished ninth in Cy Young voting. He posted three more 30+ save seasons and wound up his career with 186 saves, which still ranks 51st on the all-time list.

Today, his son, James Russell, makes the reverse transition. James Russell had a bit of success last year in the Cubs bullpen, but overall, his rookie year in 2010 has to be deemed a failure; he posted a 4.96 ERA in 57 appearances last year. About the only thing he did well was not walk people -- he issued only 11 walks in 49 innings. Unfortunately, he matched that number by giving up 11 home runs. James wasn't a very good starter in the Cubs' minor league system, posting ERAs in the fours and fives until he was moved to the bullpen in 2009. Maybe Russell can be one of those proverbial late blooming lefthanders (he turned 25 in January). Don't expect him to hit, though; in his minor league career he was 2-for-28 and is 0-for-5 as a major league batter.

Cubs lineup:

Castro SS, Barney 2B, Byrd CF, Ramirez 3B, Pena 1B, Soriano LF, Soto C, Colvin RF, Russell P

Astros lineup:

Bourn cf, Sanchez ss, Pence rf, Lee 1b, Michaels lf, Hall 2b, Johnson 3b, Quintero c, Myers p
Today's Starting Pitchers
James Russell
James Russell
Cubs
vs. Brett Myers
Brett Myers
Astros
1-0 W-L 0-0
0.00 ERA 2.03
1 SO 4
0 BB 6
0 HR 1
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - James Russell 1-0 2 0 0 0 0 1 2.0 2 0 0 0 0 3 0.00 1.00


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Brett Myers 0-0 2 2 0 0 0 0 13.1 9 4 3 1 6 4 2.03 1.13

James Russell made five relief appearances against the Astros last year, covering 3.1 innings, without allowing a baserunner. Michael Bourn (0-for-3) is the only Astro to have more than one at-bat against him.

Brett Myers has been tough on the Cubs. Last year, in four starts, he was 3-0 with a no-decision in 29.2 innings, posting a 1.21 ERA and allowing only 20 hits, five walks and striking out 34. Current Cubs are hitting only .214 (34-for-159) off him, though with seven home runs (three by Alfonso Soriano, two by Aramis Ramirez, one each by Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin). The Cubs will need some of those people, and others, to hit tonight.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Houston. 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 Astros site Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7 p.m. CDT and the overflow threads will post at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to rain delays or extra innings, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.