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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, July 31st (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (58-44) at Chicago Cubs (43-58), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (12-3, 3.52) Chicago - TBA

(Sports Network) - Given all the trade discussions in the last month or so it was probably a longshot that right-hander Ryan Dempster was going to make his scheduled start on Tuesday for the Chicago Cubs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And right around the deadline those notions were affirmed when Dempster was traded to the Texas Rangers for Single-A pitcher Kyle Hendricks and Triple-A third baseman Christian Villanueva.

So, with Dempster taking his talents to Arlington, it is not known who the Cubs will throw this evening.

Chicago was one of the more active teams leading up to the deadline, as it also dealt outfielder Reed Johnson and left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves on Monday, while shipping catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers earlier in the day on Tuesday.

"I've never really been a part of anything like that. It was just like every time I turned around someone else was leaving," Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger said. "I guess that's what happens this time of year."

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, enters the middle test of the series in a two-game losing skid, which has dropped it three games behind the Cincinnati Reds atop the NL's Central Division.

The Pirates had won four straight before losing in the finale of a series in Houston and dropping Monday's opener in Chicago, 14-4.

Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro each homered during a nine-run fifth inning for the Cubs.

Darwin Barney blasted a three-run homer off Erik Bedard in the fourth inning and tied a career-high with four RBI. Castro went 3-for-4 and drove in three in Chicago's third consecutive victory.

Justin Germano (1-1), making his first start in a Cubs uniform, allowed four hits and a pair of runs over five innings. Germano, who was acquired earlier this month from Boston, made his first major league start since Oct. 3, 2010 while he was with Cleveland.

Bedard (5-12) was shelled for seven hits and nine runs - eight earned - over 4 1/3 frames to suffer his sixth defeat in his last seven decisions.

Michael McKenry knocked in two runs for the Pirates. Starling Marte had three hits and an RBI.

The Pirates also made a deal Monday night, acquiring outfielder Travis Snider from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for pitcher Brad Lincoln. Then on Tuesday the Bucs acquired first baseman Gaby Sanchez from Miami for Gorkys Hernandez and sent infielder Casey McGehee to the Yankees for right-handed reliever Chad Qualls..

Heading to the hill for the Pirates tonight will be 35-year-old A.J. Burnett, who began his season at 1-2 before winning nine straight decisions between May 19 and July 8.

Included in the nine-start run was the 1-0 defeat of Dempster and the Cubs in May, in which Burnett tossed 5 1/3 innings of scoreless six-hit ball.

That win got Burnett to 5-0 in six career starts against the Cubs, in which he's allowed a .241 opposition batting average and posted a 3.47 ERA.

Burnett is 5-3 in eight road starts this season.

The Pirates won four of the initial six games between the teams in 2012, including a three-game sweep in May in Pittsburgh. The Cubs won two of three in Pittsburgh between July 23-25.

The Cubs last won the season series in 2009.

07/31 16:29:25 ET