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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates preview, Thursday 8/16, 6:05 CT

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The Cubs head to the road to face a N.L. Central rival.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Guess what? It might rain in Pittsburgh tonight.

The Pittsburgh weather radar link I usually use appears to be broken, so here’s one from nearby to keep handy.

Thursday notes:

  • The Cubs have won 69 games and lost 50. They didn’t win their 69th game in 2017 until game 129 on August 27, when they were 69-60.
  • Tonight is the first game of a stretch where the Cubs will play 17 of their next 24 games on the road through September 9. This six-game trip will be followed by a seven-game homestand, and then an 11-game trip through Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Washington.
  • The Cubs have won their last four one-run games to return to .500 in those outcomes (17-17). Going even further back, the Cubs are 7-1 in their last eight one-run games since July 13 after starting the year 10-16 in those contests.
  • Anthony Rizzo fun fact:
  • Ben Zobrist is hitting .403 (25-for-62) since the All-Star Break, second-best in the National League, one point behind Justin Turner (.404). Zobrist’s .444 on-base percentage since the Break is second-best in the league behind Turner’s .481.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Pirates lineup:

Jon Lester, LHP vs. Ivan Nova, RHP

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

Jon Lester... I’m running out of things to say about him here. Since late June he’s just been awful: 7.51 ERA, 1.850 WHIP in nine starts, and 12 (!) home runs in 44⅓ innings. I mean... pretty much anyone at Iowa could have done that, or better.

Lester started against the Pirates at PNC two weeks ago, July 31. The numbers don’t look great: four earned runs in five innings, but two of those four runs came on one pitch, a two-run homer allowed to Francisco Cervelli. Jon’s velocity has been down a bit recently, and that could be the cause of some of these issues. He looks like he could use a break, but on we march through a key part of the schedule, and all we can do is hope he’ll recover his earlier form.

Ivan Nova’s ERA has been in a narrow range of 3.98 to 4.42 since June 16, a span of 10 starts, so what would you call that? Consistently inconsistent? Overall, his ERA is 4.11 in those 10 starts, and he’s allowed 10 home runs in 57 innings in those starts.

His last start against the Cubs was just before that, June 10 at Wrigley Field, and he allowed one earned run in 5⅔ innings. That’s not bad, but Nova has thrown six innings or more in a start just twice since June. So getting to him early and getting into the Pirates bullpen sounds like a plan.

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago.

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 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.