GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan -- A little bit of history for you this afternoon, before tonight's game begins.
On this date in 1970, the Cubs were playing the Pirates at Wrigley Field. They had muddled around .500 most of the summer, but had pushed their way back into the pennant race, entering September 13 two games behind the first-place Bucs.
They entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 2-1 and the first two hitters grounded out. Pinch-hitter Willie Smith lofted a routine fly ball to center that should have been an easy out and ended the game, but normally-good-fielding Matty Alou dropped it. I mean, just dropped it -- I remember watching this and being stunned that Alou would have botched such an easy play.
Three singles later, the Cubs had a 3-2 win and were one game out of first place with 17 games remaining. Could 1970 be the year of redemption after the crushing failure of 1969? Could this game make up for the "Stargell Game" that really slew the Cubs in 1969?
Unfortunately, no. The Pirates went 12-5 the rest of the way, and the Cubs 8-9. The Cubs actually stayed within 1½ games of first place until there were just 11 games left, but then went 4-7 and that, as they say, was that.
Just to remind you that pennant races can happen. Maybe someday soon, the Cubs will be back in one.
Alcantara CF, Baez SS, Valbuena 3B, Castillo C, Valaika 2B, Olt 1B, Lake LF, Szczur RF, Doubront P
Chris Valaika is your No. 5 hitter. Chris Valaika has started 50 major-league games before tonight. He has never batted fifth in any of them, until tonight. That ought to explain all you need to know about this lineup.
Harrison 3B, Mercer SS, McCutchen CF, Walker 2B, Martin C, Tabata RF, G. Sanchez 1B, Snider LF, Locke P
Today's Starting Pitchers
I don't really know what to think about Felix Doubront. He has talent; he flashed it on occasion with the Red Sox and in his first Cubs start, but his second Cubs outing -- last Saturday against the Pirates at Wrigley Field -- was mediocre despite the overall results (five innings, two earned runs) not being too bad. That pretty much sums up his career to date.
I'm pretty sure the Cubs brass, who signed Doubront for Boston, would like to see him succeed. Maybe he will. Stranger things have happened.
Jeff Locke was involved in a very strange incident this year when a former classmate of his accused him of throwing games. Read the link -- the accusations were ludicrous and Locke was cleared before he even knew anything about this. Pitching-wise, he's had a decent year, after coming back from back trouble and an oblique injury. He has not faced the Cubs this year and current Cubs are a small-sample-size 6-for-36 against him.
Today's game is on CSN Chicago.
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.