Monday, June 28, 2010

Series Preview: Cubs VS Pirates

Two divisional foes in the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates will meet in a three game series that kicks off tonight and runs through Wednesday. The Cubs dominated the season series in both 2008 (14-4) and 2009 (10-4), but this year it's been a different story. The Bucs have take all three series that the clubs have played against one another and lead the season set 7 games to 2. The last time the Pirates and Cubs met, the Cubbies took a one game makeup on June 7 for their first victory at PNC Park this season.

After Wednesday, these Central division opponents will not play each other again until August 30. Both teams have had frustrating seasons to date. The Pirates are accustomed to finishing at or near the cellar in the NL Central, but the Cubs had high expectations for 2010. They are at risk of suffering their first losing season under skipper Lou Piniella.

Pittsburgh is in last in the division with a record of 25-50, which is 16.5 out of first. The Cubs are eight games ahead of the Pirates, but still nine under .500 and 8.5 behind the Reds, who lead St. Louis by a half of a game going into play today.

The North Siders just finished losing two of three at U.S. Cellular Field against their Crosstown rivals. The weekend included another Carlos Zambrano blow-up, and this one got him suspended indefinitely. After a team meeting on Saturday, the Cubs seemed like a different club on both Saturday and Sunday. They still lost Saturday night's contest in a 3-2 heart breaker, but then they managed to salvage something beating the Sox 8-6 on Sunday. The Cubs were clicking on all cylinders during the final game of the weekend. Tyler Colvin put the Cubs in front with a three run homer early, and then they settled in and got more comfortable at the plate. The final score was closer than it should have been because of a circus ninth inning against Carlos Marmol. The Cubs closer did not have the intensity that he usually has in a tight game, and ended up allowing the Sox to bring the winning run to the plate even though the Cubs had a five run lead going to the final frame.

The Cubbies have made a habit of losing the first two games of a series before finally waking up and winning the finale. They've dropped the opener in each of their last eight sets, a string they hope to end tonight. With a last place team in town, Lou's crew has a chance to end a miserable month on a high note. They hold a 9-14 record in June going into these final three games.

The Bucs are concluding a nine game road swing at Wrigley. They are 0-6 to start the trip after being swept by both Texas and Oakland in interleague games. The Pirates have had an even tougher month than the Cubs, 4-19 in June entering play tonight. The next time the Cubs see this squad, they will probably be revamped. Pittsburgh, once again, will be selling at the deadline.

Ron Santo will be honored by the organization prior to the game tonight. Santo celebrated the 50th anniversary of his big league debut on Saturday. The Cubs played the Pirates in Ronny's first career game on June 26, 1960. They swept a double header in Pittsburgh 7-6 and 7-5. He started at thirdbase and had three hits and five RBIs on the day. Santo went on to become a fixture in the Cubs lineup until 1974, when his final year of pro ball was spent with the White Sox. The 9-time All-Star is now in his 21st year of broadcasting on WGN Radio. Flags will fly at Wrigley in his honor starting tonight. In addition, Ron will toss out the first pitch tonight and sing "Take Me Out the Ball Game" on Thursday.

Game 1: Monday, 7:05 CT
Cubs Pitcher: Randy Wells, RHP (3-6, 5.21 ERA)
Pirates Pitcher: Paul Maholm, LHP (4-6, 4.24 ERA)
TV/Radio: CSN/WGN Radio 720

Game 2: Tuesday, 7:05 CT
Cubs Pitcher: Ted Lilly, LHP (2-6, 3.28 ERA)
Pirates Pitcher: Jeff Karstens, RHP (2-2, 4.60 ERA)
TV/Radio: WGN-TV/WGN Radio 720

Game 3: Wednesday at 1:20 CT
Cubs Pitcher: Tom Gorzelanny (2-5, 3.41 ERA)
Pirates Pitcher: Brad Lincoln (0-2, 6.00 ERA)
TV/Radio: WGN-TV/WGN Radio 720

One positive thing from the Zambrano incident is that Tom Gorzelanny is back in the rotation. Lou Piniella has said that if/when Z returns, he will head back to the bullpen and Gorzo will stay in the starting five. Tom pitched well during his stint of relief work. He earned his first career save in Seattle on Thursday and bailed Zambrano out to keep the Cubs in the game on Friday. Gorzelanny will work against his former team on Wednesday afternoon. Jose Ascaino, who went the other way in the Gorzo/Grabow trade, is on the 60 day DL. Kevin Hart, another produce of last July's swap, is in the minors, so the only former Cub we'll see in the series is shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

The Cubs are opening up their final homestand of the first half. The 7-gamer continues as the Reds come in for four starting on Thursday afternoon. The Cubs will spend the final week prior to the All-Star Break on the West Coast. The Pirates will come home for a four game series with the Phillies, but then they'll be right back on the road, where they've really struggled this season.

"I don't care who wins as long as it's the Cubs!"

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