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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Thursday 4/23, 11:35 a.m. CT

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The Cubs still have a shot at winning this series.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Cubs don't play a lot of four-game series and obviously, only about half of them are on the road.

The last time the Cubs won a four-game road series was April 25-28, 2013, when they took the first three of a four-game set against the Marlins in Miami.

The last time the Cubs won a four-game road series against an N.L. Central opponent was over the Pirates, a four-game sweep from August 1-4, 2011.

I think you'll agree with me it's been too long. The Cubs didn't do well against N.L. Central teams in 2014, going 33-43. If they are to have any chance at contention, they're going to have to win these divisional games and series. They're off to a good start, 5-3 vs. divisional opponents. In 2014 it took until April 27 (remember, the season started a week earlier last year) to win five games within the division, and by that time the Cubs were 5-10 within the N.L. Central.

This is better. Keep up the good work.

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Denorfia LF, Rizzo 1B, Soler RF, Bryant CF, Castro SS, Castillo C, Russell 2B, Hendricks P, Herrera 3B

So, one day after he plays his first professional game in center field, Kris Bryant gets his first professional start in center field. Joe Maddon doesn't hesitate to ask players to do whatever they can to help out the team.

Incidentally, it was reported on Twitter that Dexter Fowler is available to pinch-hit today.

The Pirates staff must be sleeping in today. 90 minutes before game time and they haven't posted a lineup. Check the BCB Twitter feed for the Pirates lineup.

Today's Starting Pitchers

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks


Cubs

vs. Jeff Locke

Jeff Locke


Pirates

vs. Pit

--

vs. Cubs

Kyle Hendricks has made one mediocre start and one good one. This will be his first career start against the Pirates. He had good success last year against teams he hadn't faced before. Let's hope that continues.

Jeff Locke has made two starts this year, both against the woeful Brewers. He won both of them and gave Milwaukee just three runs in 14 total innings, issuing only one walk and having no homers hit off him. The Cubs are better than the Brewers, who lost again Wednesday to fall to 2-13. Current Cubs are a small-sample-size 7-for-37 (.189) with one home run (Anthony Rizzo).

Now, who looks younger? Locke or Hendricks? Hendricks is 25, Locke 27. Vote in the poll!

Today's game is on CSN Chicago. In some parts of the USA this game will be on MLB Network. Check your local cable/satellite listings.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

Once again for 2015, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as the last couple of years. 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 most 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.