Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Pirates – 07/08/11

Game Ninety: Cubs (36-53) vs. Pirates (45-42)
Game Time – 6:05pm CDT
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 187
Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh

Rodrigo Lopez (1-2, 3.91/1.42) vs. James McDonald (5-4, 4.40/1.59)

Updated 3:33pm CDTAccording to multiple reports, the Cubs released Fernando Perez on Friday. Perez was on the Cubs 40-man roster and with his release the Cubs big league roster was reduced to 39 players.

The Cubs begin their last series before the break tonight with the first of three against the Mighty Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates are playing very good ball and enter play tonight just a game back of the Brewers and Cardinals, second place in the NL Central. The Pirates are not only thinking about a winning season but they have visions of their first post-season birth since 1992.

The Bucs have owned the Cubs since the end of the 2009 season and have already won two series at Wrigley this season. The Cubs have lost four of six to the Pirates and simply do not match up well with the Pirates.

Mike Quade is slated to send Rodrigo Lopez, Ryan Dempster and Ramon Ortiz to the hill this weekend … not exactly the three pitchers that Quade figured he would finish the first half with back in the spring. The Cubs offense will have their hands full over the next three days. After James McDonald, Q’s squad will have to deal with Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm.

In other newsRyan Dempster is penciled in to start Saturday’s game. Dempster threw a side session Thursday and said he felt fine afterwards. The final decision on Saturday’s start will be made today once the Cubs talk to Dempster.

Carlos Zambrano will make a rehab start with the Peoria Chiefs tonight and if all goes well he will likely return to the rotation on July 16 against the Marlins.

The Cubs are expected to release the results on Marcos Mateo’s MRI on Friday.

Tonight it all begins with Rodrigo Lopez

Rodrigo Lopez is coming off a tremendous start against the White Sox and will make his fourth start of the season tonight. Lopez threw seven innings of shutout ball and surrendered just two hits to the Southsiders. Lopez had very good command and took advantage of the aggressive White Sox offense. Lopez did not issue a free pass and struck out three.

Lopez will make his first road start of the year tonight. He is 1-1 as a starter with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.

Rodrigo Lopez is 1-0 in one career start against the Pirates with a 1.50 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.

Pirates Career Numbers against Rodrigo Lopez

  • Matt Diaz – 1-for-3 with a triple
  • Garrett Jones – 1-for-2 with a walk
  • Andrew McCutchen – 0-for-3
  • Lyle Overbay – 3-for-4 with a walk
  • Xavier Paul – 0-for-1 with a walk

The Pirates acquired James McDonald last year at the trading deadline for Octavio Dotel … and the trade has paid nice dividends for the Pirates. McDonald has been very good for Clint Hurdle this season and has not allowed more than three earned runs in a single start since May 13.

McDonald is coming off a no decision to the Nationals in which he allowed two runs on seven hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. While McDonald has not posted a victory since June 16, the Pirates are 6-4 in his last 10 starts.

James McDonald is one of the many reasons the Pirates are where they are in the standings. McDonald is 2-1 in eight starts at PNC this year with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP.

Tonight will be McDonald’s second career start against the Cubs. McDonald took the loss last September at Wrigley (Thomas Diamond picked up the victory) and in two career appearances he is 0-1 versus the Cubs with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP.

McDonald is not the same pitcher he was last September … the Cubs will have their hands full tonight.

Cubs Career Numbers against James McDonald

  • Darwin Barney – 2-for-3
  • Starlin Castro – 2-for-3
  • Blake DeWitt – 0-for-3
  • Kosuke Fukudome – 2-for-3 with a double and a walk
  • Koyie Hill – 1-for-2 with a double
  • Aramis Ramirez – a walk in only plate appearance
  • Alfonso Soriano – 0-for-2 with a walk

Follow the CCO on Twitter: @TheCCO

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …

Quote of the Day

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." - Babe Ruth