The Cubs blew out the Pirates for the fourth time in four 2016 matchups on Friday, trouncing them 9-4. I'm not sure we should belabor it, because to do so would only make it worse. For example:
-P- Today represented probably the Bucs' single best chance of capturing a win this series, with Francisco Liriano facing a debatably lefty-vulnerable Cubs lineup and with the Cubs starting Jason Hammel, one of their starting pitchers who isn't supposed to be great. Tomorrow is Jeff Locke and Jake Arrieta. It just gets worse from here.
-P- The Cubs' scoring came almost entirely on home runs, with Addison Russell and David Ross hitting three-run shots and Kris Bryant with a two-run job. (Arquimedes Caminero gave up an RBI double to Dexter Fowler in the eighth.) This wasn't a bunch of ground balls finding holes. It was the Cubs destroying the ball. Oh, and getting some help from Liriano, who walked four batters and who now has a 4.99 ERA on the season.
-P- The Pirates' own runs came in garbage time, after the Cubs had already piled up eight of their own. In the sixth, Gregory Polanco doubled, then moved up to third on Starling Marte's single. Marte then tried to steal second for some reason, and Ross chucked the ball into the outfield, allowing Polanco to score and Marte to move to third. Marte then came home on a single by Francisco Cervelli. Not very glamorous stuff. (Marte also stole second in a similar scenario in the the eighth. It worked. I'm sure his fantasy owners will be glad.) In the ninth, the Pirates added two more runs against the weaker end of the Cubs' bullpen, as Sean Rodriguez walked, and Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer to left.
-P- One positive from this one was Polanco, who smacked two doubles and drew a walk, perhaps awakening somewhat after what's been a quiet month for him so far. Oh, and Andrew McCutchen continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-5 with a double and his homer. That's certainly something. But that's about it.
It's true that the Pirates have only faced the Cubs four times, but Chicago is now 26-8 and has a +104 run differential (!). The Pirates' own run differential is now just +3. It's clear that the Cubs look much, much better than the Bucs -- far more so than it looked at the beginning of the season, when the Cubs were already widely considered World Series favorites. I can't remember the Pirates getting owned this badly by another team since, I don't know, Milwaukee in the Collapse years. There will be 15 opportunities this season for the Pirates to turn that trend around, but that's just an overly optimistic way of saying they have to play the Cubs 15 more times.