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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates preview, Monday 7/1, 6:05 CT

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This has the feel of an important series.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

No roster moves today, at least not at posting time. So, onward with notes for a new month:

  • JAVY! JAVY! JAVY! On Saturday, Javier Baez hit his 20th home run of the season, reaching the milestone prior to the All-Star Break for the first time in his career. Baez is the sixth player (and first middle infielder) in club history to reach 20 homers, 20 doubles and 50 RBI by the All-Star Break. The others: Billy Williams (1972), Sammy Sosa (2000 and 2001), Derrek Lee (2005), Kris Bryant (2016) and Anthony Rizzo (2016).
  • COMEDY CENTRAL: The N.L. Central has reached July 1 with all five teams separated by just 5½ games. The 2019 N.L. Central is the first division to enter July separated by 5½ games or less since the 2013 N.L. West was separated by four games on this date. For the N.L. Central, it’s the first time the division has reached July 1 with all five teams separated by 5½ games or fewer since 1996 when the five clubs were separated by five games.
  • HEY-HEY FOR HEYWARD: Jason Heyward homered in each of the first three games on the current road trip. He is hitting .330/.388/.594 (35-for-106, 982 OPS) in his last 31 games since May 28, and his full season OPS of .834 would be his best since his rookie year of 2010. And, his 14 home runs this season are already his most in a season as a Cub and most overall since hitting 14 homers with Atlanta in 2013. His current OPS+ is 114 and wRC+ is 116.
  • KEEPING SCORE: The Cubs have +64 run differential this year, second-best in the N.L. behind the Dodgers at +128. And, the Cubs are averaging 5.07 runs per game this season, fifth in the N.L. behind the Rockies (5.65), Braves (5.42), Dodgers (5.34) and Diamondbacks (5.10).

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Pirates lineup:

Adbert Alzolay, RHP vs. Trevor Williams, RHP

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Adbert Alzolay has thrown 8⅔ major-league innings and allowed only two hits. That’s good! Both of those hits are home runs. That’s not good. Both of the hits are solo homers. That’s not too bad. His WHIP is 0.923, which is good... but it’s only that high because he’s walked six.

Seriously, I have no idea what to expect from Alzolay in this start. He threw 55 pitches in the four-inning relief outing in his MLB debut. That’s good! But then he threw 87 pitches in the 4⅔-inning start, which is not optimal. He did manage to keep a pretty good Braves team off balance.

This will be his first MLB outing outside of Wrigley Field, for whatever that’s worth.

I figure one of these is needed here, so here it is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Trevor Williams missed a month with what was described as a “right-side strain.” He has made two starts since his return and the results have not been good: 8.49 ERA, 1.457 WHIP, four home runs in 11⅔ innings, and that against two teams not known for offensive prowess (Mets and Tigers). On the other hand, he hasn’t walked anyone in those innings.

Williams did not face the Cubs in the series at Wrigley Field earlier this year. Last year against the Cubs he posted a 2.50 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in three starts covering 18 innings. Current Cubs are hitting .236 (21-for-89) against Williams with three home runs, two of those by Kyle Schwarber (5-for-15).

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s also on ESPN (outside the Cubs and Pirates market territories). ESPN announcers: Dave Flemming, Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian.

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 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. 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.