Todayâ€™s MLB game on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra comes from Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs host the Cincinnati Reds.Â Coverage is scheduled to begin at 19.00 with first pitch set for 19.20.Â You can listen in either via DAB radio or digital TV.
The Reds go into the contest leading the National League Central by 1.5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals.Â Theyâ€™ve won the first two games of the series and will be aiming for the sweep this evening.Â
Meanwhile the Cubs have long since waved goodbye to hopes of a postseason charge in manager Lou Piniellaâ€™s final season.Â Regardless of their position in the standings, and their reluctance to help out their bitter rivals in St. Louis, the Cubs will still be going all out to avoid a third straight loss.Â
Managers facing former teams
This series has an interesting storyline to it concerning the respective managers.Â Both have previously had stints in charge of the other team, with Dusty Baker taking the Cubs to within one game of the World Series in 2003 and Lou Piniella winning the Fall Classic with the Reds back in 1990.Â In both cases, those achievements came in their first year at the helm and they failed to live up to that early success.Â Piniellaâ€™s Reds finished fifth in the six-team NL East the following year (they finished second in 1992 but were eight games behind the Atlanta Braves), while Bakerâ€™s reign ended on a distinctly sour note in 2006 as the Cubs finished dead last in the NL Central and lost 96 games in the process.
Piniella never returned to the World Series despite enjoying some success with the Seattle Mariners, most notably their 116 win season in 2001, while his four years with the Cubs will be remembered more for the two straight 3-0 playoff losses in 2007 and 2008 than the two first-placed finishes in the NL Central.Â In contrast, Baker is revelling in being part of a playoff contender once again after two sub-.500 seasons in his first two years in Cincinnati.
Todayâ€™s starting pitchers
Weâ€™ve got a pair of rookies on the mound today.
Travis Wood was a second round draft pick by the Reds back in 2005 and, alongside Mike Leake, his Major League performances have been a welcome addition to Cincinnatiâ€™s starting rotation this season.Â
Wood made his Big League debut on 1 July against the Cubs and he has given his team a chance to win in most of his seven starts, memorably taking a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in his third start.Â He has earned two wins in a row from his previous two outings, most recently pitching seven shut-out innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.Â Today will be the first time in his Major League career that he faces a team he has already pitched against, so it will be interesting to see (or hear) how the Cubs’ hitters approach their at-bats and how Wood adjusts.Â Wood is a left-hander with a sinking low-nineties fastball, a slider, curve and change-up.
Matching up against Wood is Thomas Diamond.Â The 6ft 3in right-hander made his Major League debut on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers and, although he was landed with a loss, it was an impressive start.Â Diamond struck out ten batters over six innings, tying the Cubsâ€™ debut record held by former star youngster Mark Prior.Â
Diamond himself was once aÂ top prospect in the Texas Rangersâ€™ system, but he lost 2007 and most of 2008 due to undergoing Tommy John surgery and he hasnâ€™t progressed in the way Texas hoped, paving the way for the Cubs to claim him off waivers.Â Prior to that surgery he was known for a 94MPH fastball that he could ramp up to 97 MPH when needed.Â He isnâ€™t going to blow anyone away anymore as his fastball now sits in the 88-91MPH range, but his low 80s change-up worked well on Tuesday and the quality of his off-speed pitches are key if he is to stick as a Major League starter.
Thomas Diamond was once part of a highly-touted trio of Rangers pitching prospects that were regularly referred to as â€˜DVDâ€™.Â The other two members were John Danks, who has turned into a highly effective starter for the Chicago White Sox, and Edinson Volquez, who pitched for the Reds against the Cubs in yesterdayâ€™s game.