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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Saturday 9/26, 12:05 CT

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The Cubs once again go for a playoff-spot clincher.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

ICYMI earlier, the Cubs clinched a spot in the October playoff tournament when the Giants lost to the Athletics late Friday night. Read more about that here.

There's still regular-season business to take care of. The Cubs still have a slim chance of catching the Pirates for the top wild-card spot, but trailing them by 4½ games, they'll really have to win the next two in order to have a real shot at that. Otherwise they're likely headed for an October 7 date with the Pirates at PNC Park for the wild-card game.

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Fowler CF, Jackson LF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Castro 2B, Soler RF, Russell SS, Ross C, Hammel P

The Pirates lineup was not available at the time I wrote this preview. Please check the BCB Twitter feed for the Pirates lineup.

Today's Starting Pitchers

Jason Hammel

Jason Hammel


Cubs

vs. Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano


Pirates

vs. Pit

--

vs. Cubs

Jason Hammel really has to step up. He's not been good since he had a hamstring problem that forced him out of the game July 8 against the Cardinals, and though they haven't said anything, I suspect this might still be bothering him. He did have an excellent outing against the Pirates April 27 at Wrigley Field, eight innings of shutout ball. The Cubs really need another one of those.

Francisco Liriano has handled the Cubs in the past, but has just one start against them this year, April 21 at PNC Park, where the Cubs hit him pretty well. One thing the Cubs can do this afternoon to get to Liriano is take pitches. In four starts this month he's walked 10 in 20⅓ innings. The Cubs have been a patient team most of this year -- that could be the key to solving Liriano.

Today's game is on Fox. Here's the coverage map -- as you can see, this game is going to most of the country except Texas (the other game is Rangers/Astros), the northeast and northwest and parts of California, as well as certain American League markets. Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz will be the announcers.

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. If you do go there to interact with Pirates fans, please be respectful, abide by their individual site rules and serve as a good representation of Cub fans in general and BCB in particular.

The 2015 Game Thread procedure has changed a bit. Here's how it will work going forward.

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.