Inside Pitch: Attendance, Etc.

The Cubs are likely going to draw three million fans for a third straight year, but it's going to be a close call.

The Cubs drew an announced crowd of 27,105 on Thursday afternoon -- a battle between the Cubs and Pirates to see who stays out of the National League Central basement.

It was the lowest crowd at Wrigley Field since Sept. 26, 2002.

September is usually a down time for most teams because of school starting up. But in 2003, 2004 and 2005, the Cubs have not seen a significant drop-off during that month.

This year is different.

It's the third straight year the North Siders have failed to make the playoffs, and thanks in part to injuries, many rookies are logging a heavy workload and fans might not be interested in watching what they perceive is a minor league lineup out there.

Thus far, the Cubs have drawn 2.7 million fans through Thursday.

REPLAY: Starting pitcher Angel Guzman gave up three home runs, blew a 3-1 lead his offense gave him, and the Cubs were beaten, 8-4, by Atlanta at Turner Field on Friday night.

Aramis Ramirez had two hits and Jacque Jones homered, but it was not enough for the Cubs, who fell to 56-85.

The last time the Cubs had won in Atlanta was in 2004 after going 0-4 there in 2005.

--RHP Wade Miller, who had shoulder surgery performed last September, is scheduled to make his Cubs debut on Saturday against Atlanta. When the Cubs signed Miller in the off-season, they had hoped he would be able to pitch in May. But the process has gone slower than they hoped for, and despite the fact that his velocity has been disappointing (topping off in the high 80-mph range) the Cubs want to see if he can pitch on the major league level.

--RHP Carlos Zambrano, who will have his start skipped on Saturday because of back pain, is still listed as "day to day" but won't start throwing again until the pain goes away. Zambrano could be out the rest of the season.

--RF Jacque Jones hit his 23rd homer of the year and is second on the team in home runs behind Aramis Ramirez's 32. If Jones gets hot, he can give his career high of 27 homers (set with Minnesota in 2002) a run.

--RHP Angel Guzman failed to go five innings on Friday night, and it marked the 40th time this season a Cubs starting pitcher failed to go at least five.

--LHP Ryan O'Malley, who had just two starts with the Cubs before suffering an elbow injury, was activated from the disabled list on Thursday, but the Cubs are not sure when he will pitch next.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 -- Stolen bases the Cubs racked up when Derrek Lee swiped second in the seventh inning on Sept. 5. It's the first time the Cubs had 100 or more steals since 1997.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What people don't know is one of my legs (the right) is longer than the other. All Zambranos have that. My dad has that. That's one of my problems, too." -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, on what might be causing his back pain throughout the past three seasons.

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