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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Preview, Saturday 6/18, 7:15 CT

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The Cubs go for two in a row over the Bucs.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates are in free-fall, having lost 15 of their last 19.

The Cubs seem to have the Pirates' number: six out of seven this year, five of the last seven in 2015 (including the wild-card game).

Keep up the good work, Cubs.

One more note: Wish a Happy Birthday to Chris Coghlan -- he's 31 today. (And no, I'm not quite sure what he's pointing at in the photo above.)

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

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

Pirates lineup:

Mercer SS, Harrison 2B, McCutchen CF, Kang 3B, Freese 1B, Joyce LF, Rodriguez RF, Kratz C, Niese P

Jon Lester

vs

Jonathon Niese

Jon Lester is having the best year of his career. In two starts against the Pirates this season he has allowed one run in 12⅓ innings with 14 strikeouts. Since his debacle in San Francisco last month, Lester has an 0.59 ERA in four starts (30⅓ innings) with just two walks. Keep up the great work!

Jonathon Niese has not been very good this year. He'll sprinkle a good start (just one run against his former team, the Mets, in seven innings June 7) in with a bad one (getting pounded by the Cardinals June 12). That's pretty much what he did against the Cubs while with the Mets last year -- mediocre start at Wrigley, a better one in New York.

So what to expect? Who knows? Current Cubs are hitting .252 (35-for-139) against Niese with four home runs. Jason Heyward has two of those homers and is 9-for-28 (.321) against Niese.

Today's game is on Fox. Here's the coverage map -- this is Fox's primary game and will be seen in most of the USA except parts of the Midwest, South and East Coast. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz. Reminder: if you are not in the coverage area, you can still watch this game if you subscribe to MLB.tv or Extra Innings.

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.