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Cubs vs. Pirates Preview, Monday 3/31, 12:05 CT: Opening Day!

Happy Opening Day! It might be cold where you are, but the arrival of baseball is a sure sign of spring.

Justin K. Aller

SOMEWHERE IN NEW MEXICO -- As you read this game preview, I'll be on the road heading back to Chicago, likely somewhere west of Albuquerque, and will be listening to the game in my car. (NOTE: today's game recap will be delayed until about 6 p.m. CT, when I get to my overnight stop in Amarillo, Texas.)

Today is the day when everyone's tied for first place (except, of course, for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who have already played two regular-season games)... the day when optimism reigns, the day when spring is in the air even if it's 38 degrees and drizzly (and at least that won't be the case in Pittsburgh, where the forecast is for sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s to near 60, perfectly good early-spring baseball weather).

So rejoice today, as baseball once again fills our days and evenings, for the next six months!

One note on today's Cubs opener: baseball used to have a "traditional" season opener in Cincinnati, a nod to that city's claim to having the first professional team in 1869. That tradition has faded in recent years, and of course we've already had regular-season games this year in Australia, and last night in San Diego. But the first pitch of this game will be the first thrown today, the real Opening Day; as you can see by today's schedule, the Cubs/Pirates game has the earliest starting time. (No, I don't know the reason why Detroit home day games are scheduled for 1:08 p.m. ET.)

Cubs lineup:

Bonifacio CF, Lake LF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Olt 3B, Castillo C, Schierholtz RF, Barney 2B, Samardzija P

Pirates lineup:

Marte LF, Snider RF, McCutchen CF, Alvarez 3B, Martin C, Walker 2B, Ishikawa 1B, Mercer SS, Liriano P

Today's Starting Pitchers

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija


vs. Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano


vs. Pit


vs. Cubs

Jeff Samardzija is making his second Opening Day start. His first one was last year at this very locale, PNC Park, where he shut out the Pirates for eight innings, allowing just two hits and striking out nine. A repeat of that would be nice; overall vs. Pittsburgh in 2013, Shark posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.182 WHIP in five starts, 33 innings, with 12 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Francisco Liriano didn't pitch in 2013 until May, but once he did enter the Pirates' rotation, he was awesome, one of the biggest reasons Pittsburgh made the postseason. He made the All-Star team, finished ninth in Cy Young voting and against the Cubs, he was super-awesome, posting a 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in five starts, covering 34 innings, in which he walked 15 and struck out 36.

I'd pull out the "Clearly, we are doomed" line for all of that, but it's Opening Day, with two starters who have done well against today's opponent. It's likely to be a low-scoring game, so let's hope Shark is just a little bit better than Liriano this afternoon.

Today's game is on WGN. If you are outside the Chicago and Pittsburgh areas and can't get WGN, it's also on ESPN.

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

For 2014, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as 2013. Here's how it works.

You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.

You will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at five minutes before game time (moved up from actual game time per your requests), then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.