pnc parkWell. This is it. The final game of the first half.

It seems to have taken on much more meaning than we would have thought just a couple weeks ago.

I will choose to focus on the standings-related importance, rather than the monkey-no-gorilla-no-dinosaur-on-the-back stuff. If the Cubs win today, they push the Pirates back to 7.5 games back. If the Cubs lose, it’s just 5.5 games. That two-game swing is huge, even after the vomitous recent spate of losing. Get that win.

It’ll take John Lackey busting out a much better start than the Cubs have been getting lately, either from him or anyone else not named Kyle Hendricks. He is supposed to be, and feels like, a “rise to the occasion” type, so he should be up for it.

The Pirates are without Gregory Polanco, who has been one of their best, most consistent hitters this year. So that’s an assist for Lackey.

For the Cubs’ bats, it’s a familiar arm they’ll face in Jon Niese, against whom they’ve had plenty of recent success. We’ve said it again and again over this stretch, and it’s been true each time, even as the Cubs have lost again and again: this is a good matchup for the Cubs.



 


Game Info

Chicago Cubs (52-36) at Pittsburgh Pirates Braves (46-42), 12:35 CT on FOX, 670 The Score.

Game Thread and Series Preview

Your game thread is down there in the comments, so have fun. But keep it “safe for work” type fun, all right?

The Series Preview lives hereThe Lineup Discussion lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Cubs: John Lackey (R): 3.50 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.90 xFIP; 3.26 K/BB

versus

Pirates: Jon Niese (L): 4.87 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 4.35 xFIP; 2.00 K/BB



Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup:

1. John Jaso, 1B

2. Starling Marte, LF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. David Freese, 3B

5. Sean Rodriguez, 2B

6. Adam Frazier, RF

7. Jordy Mercer, SS

8. Eric Fryer, C

9. Jon Niese, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup:

1. Ben Zobrist, 2B

2. Kris Bryant, LF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Willson Contreras, C

5. Addison Russell, SS

6. Jason Heyward, RF

7. Javy Baez, 3B

8. Albert Almora Jr., CF

9. John Lackey, P




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