As I noted during the Brewers series, if the Cubs are going to start making noise in the N.L. Central, they are going to have to start defeating their divisional opponents. The Cubs are 25-36 against Central teams this year, and basically .500 (39-40) against everyone else.
One way they can start is by defeating the Pirates. You might recall that from 2003 through 2009, a period of Cubs dominance of the division, they were 72-42 against the Pirates, who were pretty awful during that time. The Pirates started trending upward and the Cubs went the other way beginning in 2010, and the record reflects that: the Cubs are 32-47 against the Pirates since the start of 2010, and that includes two years (2011 and 2012) where they managed to break even at 8-8.
This year the Cubs are 4-9 against Pittsburgh with two series remaining. It's probably too much to ask for them to take all six games, but I'd settle for a pair of series wins.
Also of note: with the back-to-back sweeps of the Brewers and Orioles, the Cubs have won six straight home games. The last time a Cubs team won more consecutive home games was May 18-June 22, 2008, when they won 14 consecutive home games over four separate homestands.
Finally, here's your once-a-series reminder to check out (if you haven't already) SB Nation's partner fantasy site, Fan Duel, where you can win real money. Here's the link.
Alcantara CF, Baez SS, Valbuena 3B, Soler RF, Coghlan LF, Castillo C, Watkins 2B, Valaika 1B, Wada P
Harrison 3B, Mercer SS, McCutchen CF, Martin C, Marte LF, Sanchez 1B, Walker 2B, Tabata RF, Worley P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Tsuyoshi Wada has surprised me. I didn't expect much from a 33-year-old pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but one of the keys to his success is doing what he did at Triple-A Iowa and also in Japan -- not walk people. He's walked just 14 in 51⅔ innings and has posted an overall WHIP of 1.084, which is really good. He has not faced the Pirates or anyone on their roster. That could be a good thing, too. The Pirates are slightly over .500 vs. lefthanded starters (15-12).
Vance Worley is the kind of pitcher the Cubs have been resurrecting over the last couple of years, only younger. I kind of wish they'd taken a flyer on him. He's been very good this year and in his only start against the Cubs, June 21 at Wrigley Field, he held the Cubs to three runs in 6⅔ innings. Anthony Rizzo homered off him, but then, Rizzo's out, so who knows?
Today's game is on WGN.
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.