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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates preview, Wednesday 4/11, 7:05 CT

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The Cubs look to even up their series with the Pirates.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Happ, leadoff man. This was going to be great! Spring training, he was terrific, won the job, led off the entire season with a home run.

Now? Uh... he’s struggling. Here’s what Joe Maddon had to say about that:

“I just want to show some confidence in him right now,” Maddon said Monday of Happ, who was batting .179 in seven games so far. “What I think is going on is a little abnormal in a sense. We’ve seen him swing and miss in the past. He’s a very streaky guy. I think once he gets a feel for it, you’ll start seeing the ball get hit like he can -- he hits the ball really hard. I want to stay with that for now.”

”You’ve got to give a guy a chance and you can’t jump to conclusions too quickly,” Maddon said. “We’ll continue to work through it. I know him and [hitting coach Chili Davis] are working on things. He got a pretty big hit the other day [on Saturday]. I’m seeing micro things that are getting better. I like when he’s getting jammed, I like when he’s hitting the other way left-handed. I think those are all good signs.”

Happ isn't playing tonight, but not because of this. It's likely because the CDC Pirates are starting a left handed and Joe wants Albert Almora Jr. to get some at bats.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Pirates lineup:

Jon Lester, LHP vs. Steven Brault, LHP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester was pretty bad in his first start. Then he was really good in his second one. I’d like to think the real Lester is more like the second.

Last year against the Pirates he made four starts with a 4.66 ERA and 1.810 WHIP and that sounds pretty bad, but that included the shortest start of his career; he posted a 2.89 ERA in 18⅔ innings in the other three. Which, coincidentally, is exactly where his season ERA stands right at this moment.

Current Pirates are hitting .261 (48-for-184) against Jon with six home runs, two of them by Cubs arch-villain Sean Rodriguez.

This game was supposed to have been started by new Pirate Joe Musgrove, but he’s on the DL, so Steven Brault will start instead, after one start and one relief appearance this year.

Brault has made two career starts and three relief appearances against the Cubs. Results: 7.90 ERA, 2.488 WHIP. Current Cubs are hitting .419 (not a misprint, 18-for-43) against him with one home run (Kris Bryant, who is 5-for-7).

Today’s game is on WGN.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

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The 2018 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2017. 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.