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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates preview, Thursday 9/27, 7:05 CT

The Cubs look to go one game up on the Brewers with a win tonight.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I laid out what the Cubs need to do, as well as other teams, to solidify their playoff positions in this article earlier this afternoon.

There’s not all that much more I can say. By this time a year ago, the Cubs had clinched the N.L. Central title. This year, primarily because the Brewers are a better team than they were in 2017, that hasn’t happened yet.

The Cubs have the right guy on the mound tonight, I believe, for them to win and knock one more digit off the magic number. Jon Lester has a tremendous amount of experience in big games like this one and I think that’ll be the difference in this game. Other Lester notes: He has reached 30 starts for an 11th season in a row, the only pitcher in MLB to accomplish that. Lester is the first lefthanded pitcher in Cubs franchise history to reach 30 starts in each of his first four seasons with the team and joins righthanders Bob Buhl (first four years, 1962-65) and Charlie Root (six years, 1926-31) as the only Cubs pitchers to do so since 1900. More on Jon below.

The team’s 48-29 (.623) home record is the best in the National League. Wrigley Field has been kind to the Cubs all season.

Just win, baby.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Pirates lineup:

Jon Lester, LHP vs. Trevor Williams, RHP

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

Jon Lester has stepped up when the Cubs most needed him. Last seven starts: 1.96 ERA, 1.234 WHIP, just two home runs in 41⅓ innings. One of those starts was six shutout innings against the Pirates August 16 in PNC Park. Jon has made five starts vs. the Pirates this year (3.72 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, not too far from his overall season numbers).

Current Pirates are hitting .245 (51-for-208) against Jon.

Lester has a history of stepping up in big games. The Cubs need him to, tonight.

Trevor Williams has had a breakout year in this, his second full big-league season. That’s especially true since the All-Star break: 11 starts, 1.08 ERA, 0.990 WHIP, just three home runs in 66⅔ innings. That includes a six-inning, one-run start vs. the Cubs August 17 at PNC Park, the only run a solo homer by Kyle Schwarber in a 1-0 Cubs win.

Williams hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 innings of work, so this will be a tough one.

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and Pittsburgh markets).

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday 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.