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Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees Preview, Sunday 6/19, 7:05 CT: A Parable

Once upon a time there was a baseball team.

Hopeful at the beginning of its season, it quickly fell to near the bottom of the league standings, then muddled around .500 for a while, always having trouble scoring runs.

Then, just before the season's midpoint, it fell into a tailspin. Over a five-week period it went 10-25, and was shut out four straight times, eventually stretching its scoreless streak to a record 48 straight innings. Ten games under .500, it was left for dead, having been outscored by 50 cumulative runs.

An almost miraculous turnaround followed. The team went 49-33 for the rest of the year, the best record in its league over that span.

No, this is not a prediction of what the 2011 Cubs will do. I'm talking about the 1968 Cubs, who to this day are the only team in franchise history to be 10 games under .500, then finish with a winning record (the 2007 team was nine under before winning the NL Central). That team, of course, had three future Hall of Famers (and should have four), and a solid starting pitching staff and the only closer (though they weren't called that then) with more than 20 saves.

The 1968 NL did have one thing in common with the 2011 NL. It was what Bill James once called a "compressed league" -- all the teams closely bunched. With one exception, the 97-win Cardinals, the other nine teams were separated by only 16 games.

This year, except for the Phillies, who have MLB's best record, and the Padres, who have the worst, the other 14 NL teams are separated by only 10 games. Does this mean the Cubs could come back and win the NL Central? Probably not. But the way they've been playing the last week, maybe they can salvage a winning record.

And Happy Father's Day to everyone.

Cubs lineup:

CF Johnson, SS Castro, 1B Baker, 3B Ramirez, LF Soriano, C Soto, RF Montanez, 2B LeMahieu, P Wells

Yankees lineup:

Gardner lf, Granderson cf, Teixeira 1b, Rodriguez 3b, Cano 2b, Swisher rf, Martin c, Nunez ss, Sabathia p
Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
vs. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia
1-1 W-L 8-4
5.63 ERA 3.28
18 SO 81
13 BB 28
4 HR 4
vs. NY -- vs. Cubs

2011 - Randy Wells 1-1 5 5 0 0 0 0 24.0 25 16 15 4 13 18 5.63 1.58

2011 - CC Sabathia 8-4 15 15 1 0 0 0 107.0 104 46 39 4 28 81 3.28 1.23

Randy Wells has made four starts since returning from the DL. Only his last one has been a semblance of good. That may be encouraging, especially since he has never faced the Yankees. Of the three players on their team who have faced him before, only Russell Martin (2-for-8) is likely to start tonight.

On the other hand, the Cubs are quite familiar with CC Sabathia. He faced them three times while with the Brewers in 2008, and only in the September 28, 2008 game in Milwaukee that they had to win to assure themselves of the wild card, did Sabathia dominate the Cubs. Even the bad 2006 Cubs, who were in one of the worst stretches of that season, went into Cleveland and pounded Sabathia on June 21, 2006, scoring nine runs off him in less than three innings. Sabathia has also been hit hard by several current Cubs, including Alfonso Soriano, who has hit five home runs off him (in 35 AB), Aramis Ramirez (6-for-17, .438) and Reed Johnson (9-for-30, .300, one HR). Maybe this isn't as much of a mismatch as you might think.

Today's game is on ESPN. Most of today's games are over, but here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Yankees site Pinstripe Alley.

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

Discuss amongst yourselves.