You might think it's been a long time since the Cubs swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Actually, it's been less than four years -- they swept a three-game set September 7, 8 and 9, 2012, when the Cubs were on their way to a 100-loss season and the Pirates, who had awakened a bit to briefly contend early in that season, were going 9-22 after September 1.
This is different. Both teams here are good, both are contenders, both could make the postseason. A sweep of this series for the Cubs would be significant, not just for posting another win, but for letting the Pirates know they can win in their park. The Pirates were 7-4 at home before the Cubs came to town.
Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, La Stella 2B, Bryant LF, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist RF, Baez 3B, Russell SS, Ross C, Lester P
Mercer SS, McCutchen CF, Freese 3B, Marte LF, Cervelli C, Rodriguez 1B, Harrison 2B, Polanco RF, Nicasio P
Jon Lester is off to an excellent start, having allowed more than one run in just one of his five April starts. He's also struck out 10 twice already -- he did that only four times all of last year. One of his best 2015 starts was this September 15 game at PNC Park, a complete-game win in the second game of a doubleheader where he gave up just five singles and struck out nine. Overall last year against the Pirates Lester posted a 1.57 ERA and 0.913 WHIP in three starts.
Juan Nicasio signed with the Pirates as a free agent last winter after spending 2015 in the Dodgers' bullpen. He hasn't been a fulltime starter since 2013 with the Rockies, and his five starts this year have ranged from mediocre to very good (seven shutout innings vs. the Reds in his last outing). Current Cubs are hitting a small-sample-size .316 (12-for-38) against Nicasio, though a lot of that is Jason Heyward (6-for-16), who isn't starting today.
Today's game is on CSN Chicago. Outside the Chicago and Pittsburgh markets this game will be carried nationally on MLB Network.
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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.