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Due to the previously mentioned mini vacation with The Wife, the EBS for this game is likely to be delayed until a few hours after the end of the game. A thousand apologies.

Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are, indeed, back in the lineup after missing some time. Good to see they both avoided even medium-ish injuries. Just really bad owwies.

Game Info

Pittsburgh Pirates (72-70) at Chicago Cubs (56-87), 1:20 CT on WGN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview for this series lives here.

Starting Pitchers

James McDonald (12-7, 3.93 ERA, 2.33 K/BB)

versus

Chris Rusin (0-2, 5.73 ERA, 1.50 K/BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

1. Brock Holt, 2B

2. Starling Marte, LF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Garrett Jones, RF

5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B

6. Michael McKenry, C

7. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

8. Clint Barmes, SS

9. James McDonald, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. David DeJesus, RF

2. Luis Valbuena, 3B

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Starlin Castro, SS

6. Steve Clevenger, C

7. Brett Jackson, CF

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Chris Rusin, P

  • bbmoney

    Since the Cubs were out of it this year. I was rooting for the Bucs, great city, great stadium, and an underdog. Too bad they seem to have imploded for the second straight year.

    Is Neil Walker still hurt, or just an off day? They really seemed to have missed him, he was probably their second most reliable bat.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It was less implosion and more exhausted collapse. The Bucs have been a bad offense all year. (A full-time Walker would have improved things, but not by that much.) That had two big ramifications. One, they were winning despite playing in a lot of close games: and that means that they were getting lucky. Two, if the starters and/or bullpen faltered at all, then those close games (win or lose) were going to turn into multirun loses. Both the starters and the relievers have worn out, leaving them a poor hitting and below-average pitching team.

      • bbmoney

        Can’t argue with any of that Doc.

      • KyleNovak

        I have two words for you Doc.

        Baltimore. Orioles.

        They currently sport a 12.5 team batting fWAR, only better than the pants-poopingly bad offenses of the Cubs, Mariners, Astros, and Indians. Their numbers are being brought down by the very large negative UZR (so take it with a grain of salt), but any team that employs Mark Reynolds among others is going to have to deal with some bad defense, metrics or eye-test be damned.

        They are hitting .246/.311/.416 as a team, 11th in the league in OBP, 3rd in Ks, 1st in Ks as a percentage of PAs, and eighth in walks.

        So, it must be their pitching right?

        Well. . . They sport a 4.03/.4.24/4.15 ERA/FIP/xFIP triple-slash which shows that they aren’t the beneficiaries of glaring bad luck despite a bad defense. Their team ERA ranks 8th.

        So what’s the deal. Well, we should probably point to the fact that they are 27-7 in one-run games. Despite their batting woes, they do hit a good deal of home runs. Their bullpen has been their strength, with solid, if it unspectacular results from a host of guys with good, but not great, K/9 numbers (O’Day is leading the staff with just a tick over nine per, but no Aroldis Chapman is he) while putting up FIP and xFIPs in the mid 3s. Middling starting pitching that leads to a good bullpen with timely hitting of big home runs.

        This team is why I love baseball. Believe me, I am a huge proponent and user of advanced stats and analysis, but I LOVE it when a team like this comes along and throws a monkey wrench into everything. Writers everywhere at Fangraphs and a host of other sites were guaranteeing a regression from this team. Done deal, mark it down, Then they didn’t regress. And didn’t some more. Now, it’s September 14th, they are tied for the ALE lead, and everyone is left scratching their heads.

        I fully believe there are things in baseball you can’t explain with stats that pop up every once and awhile. Players and coaches say it all the time. “Day in and day out, things just didn’t go our way,” or “What can I say, we’re feeling it right now.”. There is a nugget of truth in those sayings, and a lot of people dismiss them entirely.

        Doc, your analysis of the Pirates is right, but I believe the Orioles took a similar memo and immediately put it in the shredder.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The Orioles are a once or twice a decade luck team, nothing more or less. They’ll be (I think) the 27th team to finish more than 10 games over their Pythagorean expectations. And that’s approximately how many we should have had over the course of baseball history.

          This is, I think, the single most misunderstood aspect of probability. The 1 in 100 event does not shred the model when you look at 100+ outcomes. After all, the models say that is about how often it should happen.

          • SirCub

            Agreed. That’s why you have 100-year storms, and 100-year earthquakes. But, I do not believe the O’s are a 100-year team. They are actually outperforming their pythag in a sustainable way by leveraging their above-average bullpen in close games. Pythagorean win expectations don’t work when a team makes a concerted effort (ie- more than other teams) to change their strategies in close games as opposed to blowouts.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Still hurt.

  • ssckelley

    Is there a good reason why Castillo is not in the lineup after an off day?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Maybe because Clevenger hasn’t played in a while? Castillo’s had a few nicks and scrapes this year, so a couple days off in a row probably isn’t the worst thing for him.

  • Jim

    +1 for owwies

  • baseballet

    The Pirates’ record is 72-70, so they could easily finish with a losing record and preserve their streak.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I really hope not. I just can’t imagine what it’s like for those fans. Wouldn’t wish it on almost anyone.

      • TWC

        Heh. “Almost”.

  • TSB

    I hope the Cubs win every game for the rest of the season. For those that want the Cubs to throw games to get the first draft pick remember that what separates sports from the real world: sportsmanship.

    • Leo L

      “You play to win the game!”- Herm Edwards

    • TWC

      Sportsmanlike:
      [img]http://images2.fanpop.com/images/polls/198000/198281_1236280298104_full.jpg[/img]

      • DarthHater

        [img]http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120411024118/disney/images/0/06/599933-dopey_large.jpg[/img]

      • TWC

        Whoa, wait, WTF? I swear when I linked that, it was an Andre the Giant pic from Princess Bride. The source page must not have permalinks… derp.

        • Richard Nose

          Who wins a drinking contest: Andre the Giant or Wade Boggs. go

        • DarthHater

          In a drinking contest, always bet on the dead guy.

  • MoistassAlou

    I say throw these games to the Bucs and get them back in the hunt, then pull together and sweep the Cards next weekend to knock their chances of getting in! As good as any win!!!

    • cubchymyst

      As much as I’d like to screw of the Cardinals that way, I’m going to go with TSB above. You’ve got to root for the Cubs to win even when it doesn’t help them. That comes with the territory of calling yourself a fan(atical). I hope the Cubs get the 2nd overall pick in the draft but I’m still going to root for them to win each game.

      • MoistassAlou

        I always do too, but it sweetens the pot to kill those birds!

        • cubchymyst

          I dislike the Cardinals as well and would love to see them miss the playoffs. The Cubs being the cause of them missing the playoffs would make it all the sweeter.

  • TSB

    I don’t worry ’bout the Cardinals; this isn’t their year. Hopefully it’s not their century either!

    • bbmoney

      The problem is, I thought that at this time last year too.

  • Jeff

    Brett, can you put your GM hat on and tell us how exactly can the Cubs get Chris Archer on this team next year? It seems like Tampa has quality starting pitchers coming from every direction. Alfonso Soriano has had a great season, and if the Cubs agreed to pay 95% of his contract would Tampa agree to give us Archer in return. Maybe Vogelbach and another Top 15 prospect not named Almora, Baez, Soler, or Pierce gets the deal done?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Archer’s the kind Tampa simply doesn’t trade. Davis and Shields are the ones that’ll be shopped. Probably David Price, too. No reason to deal Archer.

      • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

        Brett, how much will Tampa be expecting back for David Price?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          A ton.

  • fortyonenorth

    Dave Sappelt tweeted that he took BP with Albert Almora today. Must be Field Trip Friday for the kid.

  • Eric

    Well you can forget Mannea or Stanek in next year’s draft. Looks like we’ll be picking 5th or 6th at this pace.

  • die hard

    With Astros gone next year Cubs may have incentive to play better so as not to occupy the cellar..but cant see them getting ahead of anyone but maybe Pirates….could be a bleak 2013 also…

  • Flashfire

    The #2 draft pick could end for the Cubs this weekend, too. It’s cool how they go together.

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