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Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds Preview, Friday 5/6, 1:20 CT: Divisional Games, At Last

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Write your own caption. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Write your own caption. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Of the Cubs' first 30 games, only nine (three each against the Brewers, Pirates and Astros) have been within the NL Central. The Cubs are 4-5 in those games, having lost series to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, and won one against Houston.

That isn't a very good showing, and now, two teams that were supposed to be contenders arrive at Wrigley Field for back-to-back series beginning this weekend. The good news is that pretty much everyone in the Central division has struggled in one way or another. The Cardinals have crept ahead of the pack -- but not by much; the Cubs, although they're still under .500 at 14-16, trail by only three games.

This homestand should be a good test of whether this Cubs team, which in my mind has clearly underachieved, can stay with the leaders in the division, or not.

And amazingly enough, it begins with the best weather day we've had so far in the 2011 baseball season on the North Side of Chicago:

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 66. West wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Enjoy it while it lasts; there appears, from that link, to be a chance of rain almost every day after that, starting tomorrow, for the next week.

One more note: did you enjoy the throwback-uniform day Wednesday in Los Angeles? (I did.) If you did, the Cubs will be doing it again in Boston:

The Cubs have another scheduled in two weeks in Boston, when the teams will commemorate the 1918 Cubs-Red Sox World Series with replicas from that year.

Cubs lineup:

Fukudome RF, Barney 2B, Castro SS, Ramirez 3B, Soriano LF, Byrd CF, Peña 1B, Soto C, Garza P

Reds lineup:

Stubbs cf, Renteria ss, Votto 1b, Phillips 2b, Bruce rf, Gomes lf, Hernandez c, Janish 3b, Volquez p
Today's Starting Pitchers
Matt Garza
Matt Garza
Cubs
vs. Edinson Volquez
Edinson Volquez
Reds
1-3 W-L 2-1
3.96 ERA 5.67
51 SO 35
11 BB 24
0 HR 7
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Matt Garza 1-3 6 6 0 0 0 0 38.2 42 21 17 0 11 51 3.96 1.37


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Edinson Volquez 2-1 7 6 0 0 0 0 33.1 28 21 21 7 24 35 5.67 1.56

Edinson Volquez last pitched against the Cubs during "the low period" last August when the Cubs were going through the motions. They pretty much did that on that day, August 7, although they nearly came back in the last of the ninth to tie ("nearly" being the operative word). Current Cubs have only 39 total at-bats against him, with 11 hits (two doubles and a home run).

Matt Garza will be making his first career start against the Reds. The Reds player he has faced most is backup OF Fred Lewis (3-for-11). Ramon Hernandez is 2-for-9 against him. No other current Red has more than two AB against Garza.

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Ohio. 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 Reds site Red Reporter. Be careful over there, though.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 1:15 p.m. CDT and the overflow threads will post at 2:15 pm, 3:15 pm and 4 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.