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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Sunday 5/15, 1:20 CT

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The Cubs go for another sweep of the Pirates.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cardinals' loss to the Dodgers Saturday night, the Cubs are nine games ahead of them, as well as the Pirates.

This is a rare event in Cubs history. Here are all the previous years in which a Cubs team had at least a nine-game lead in their division or league.

2008: Cubs led the Brewers in the N.L. Central by at least nine games for about a week from September 16-24. The lead got to as much as 10 games; they finished the season 7½ games in first place.

1984: Cubs led the Mets by 9½ games for one day, September 15, after defeating them at Wrigley Field. They eventually won the N.L. East by 6½ games.

1969: Cubs had a nine-game lead for one day in June (June 15) and again for several dates between August 6 and 16. We don't have to discuss what happened after that.

1929: Cubs went up 9½ games on August 20 and maintained at least that big a lead for the rest of the season. The highest point was 14½ games ahead on August 27 and September 15; they finished 10½ games ahead.

1918: Cubs went up 9½ games on August 20 (again!) and maintained at least that big a lead for the rest of the season. The highest point was 11½ games ahead on August 24. They finished 10½ games ahead.

1910: Cubs went up nine games on August 29 and peaked on the final day of the season, 13 games ahead.

1907: Cubs went up 9½ games on June 24 and maintained that lead for the rest of the season (except two days, June 29-30, when they were "only" eight games ahead). The biggest lead was 18½ games on August 30. They finished 17 games ahead.

1906: The winningest team in Cubs history didn't get nine games ahead until August 21, because the Giants and Pirates were also good that year. They maintained at least that big a lead until the end of the season, peaking on the season's final day, 20 games ahead, the largest lead of any team in Cubs history.

Beyond being rare, you'll note that the Cubs' current nine-game lead is more than a month earlier than any of these other leads. Granted that many of those other leads were in a single league rather than one divided into divisions, but even today, the Cubs' record is 5½ games better than any other N.L. team.

And with one exception, all those Cubs teams made the postseason. Bodes well for this year, I'd say.

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Fowler CF, Heyward RF, Bryant LF, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist 2B, Russell SS, Baez 3B, Ross C, Lester P

Pirates lineup:

Mercer SS, McCutchen CF, Freese 1B, Marte LF, Cervelli C, Kang 3B, Harrison 2B, Rodriguez RF, Cole P

Jon Lester

vs

Gerrit Cole

Jon Lester threw 5⅔ scoreless innings against the Pirates May 4 in Pittsburgh. He gave up eight hits, all singles, and walked a pair, but managed to strand all the runners he allowed. Lester has been generally very, very good this year. Hope it continues.

Gerrit Cole vs. Cubs, 2016: 4⅔ innings, six hits, four walks, five earned runs (9.64 ERA).

Gerrit Cole vs. everyone else, 2016: 28⅔ innings, 27 hits, eight walks, nine earned runs (2.83 ERA).

Small sample sizes, obviously... but it appears the Cubs have Cole scouted pretty well. They've brought out the big bats so far in this series. Cole has allowed only two home runs so far this year. Time for that to change.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago. It's also on 670 The Score and Sirius/XM 186.

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 2016 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used at the end of 2015. Here's how it works.

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.