PITTSBURGH -- The last time I attended Cubs/Pirates games at PNC Park was September 7, 8 and 9, 2009. The Cubs were trying to hang on by their fingernails to a shred of wild-card contention. The Pirates were horrid -- they lost 99 games that year. The Cubs swept that series. Micah Hoffpauir, of all people, homered in two of the games. That tells you how long ago this was.
In the third game of that series, an afternoon affair, I found myself seated next to a 40-something man and his son, who appeared to be nine or 10 years old. We got to chatting and he said, "We love coming to Pirates games. We just never expect them to win."
That's obviously changed, big-time. The Pirates have been in the postseason wild-card game three years in a row and their 98 wins this year are tied for third-most in franchise history, last accomplished in 1991. They're a good team that has fun-to-root-for players like Andrew McCutchen -- at least, fun to do that when they're not playing the Cubs.
I hope that man and his son have enjoyed the last three years of Pirates baseball. If they're at tonight's game, I very much hope they go home disappointed, crushed by a Cubs victory.
There is one Cubs drought that can be ended tonight. The Cubs have lost their last nine postseason games; the last win was Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS in Miami. After that one, which I attended, I was sure the Cubs would go on to the World Series. So, most likely, were you. I don't have to go into the details of what happened next, nor the 2007 or 2008 postseasons. But oh, how I want that losing streak to end at PNC Park this evening.
There's not much more I can tell you at this point about this game that you don't already know. The usual game information is below. And please, always remember about this incredible Cubs season:
Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, Schwarber RF, Bryant LF, Rizzo 1B, La Stella 3B, Castro 2B, Montero C, Russell SS, Arrieta P
Mad Scientist Joe Maddon has no fewer than five players playing different positions than they played when they first started with the Cubs this year, either on Opening Day or when they joined the team.
Polanco RF, Harrison 3B, McCutchen CF, Marte LF, Cervelli C, Walker 2B, Mercer SS, Rodriguez 1B, Cole P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Here's what I think about these two pitchers, who you no doubt already know a lot about. Their guy is good. Our guy is better.
Gerrit Cole faced the Cubs four times this year, and Jake Arrieta faced the Pirates five times. Oddly enough, this will be the first time they've faced each other. Cole faced Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel once each and Jon Lester twice. Arrieta faced A.J. Burnett four times and J.A. Happ once.
Cole vs. Cubs this year: 2-1 (Pirates 3-1 in his starts), 2.13 ERA (six ER in 25⅓ innings), 0.947 WHIP, four walks, 32 strikeouts, no home runs.
Arrieta vs. Pirates this year: 3-1 (Cubs 4-1 in his starts), 0.75 ERA (three ER in 36 innings), 0.639 WHIP, five walks, 33 strikeouts, no home runs.
Like I said: their guy is good. But I think our guy is better. Should be an awesome pitchers' duel.
Today's game is on TBS. Announcers: Ernie Johnson on play-by-play with analysts Ron Darling and Cal Ripken, Jr. and reporter Matt Winer.
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The 2015 Game Thread procedure has changed a bit. Here's how it will work going forward. (And a reminder that a "Rapid Recap" will be posted here by Josh shortly after the game ends, with my own recap at the usual time, 8 a.m. CT tomorrow.)
You'll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream™ containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap 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 the game's StoryStream™ as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.