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Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Cubs knocked the Pirates back a bit with a comeback and a blowout win for a 2-1 series victory in Pittsburgh last month. They’re still not in gear, though. They fell back below .500 with an 11-2 home loss to the Brewers in a makeup game Thursday afternoon. That put the Cubs 4 1/2 games back of Milwaukee, but still in second place in the National League Central Division. They split a pair of games with the Rays before that.

Strangely, the Cubs do not have a player from their 2016 World Series roster (or any other World Series roster they’ve had) in the All-Star Game. Wade Davis, signed in the offseason, was their lone representative on the initial NL roster. There’s still a very strong chance Kris Bryant gets in as a replacement, though he lost out on the final-man vote.

The Pirates (40-46) won the last three of a four-game series in Philadelphia this week.

Season Series: 5-4 Pirates

At Chicago

April 14: Pirates 4, Cubs 2

April 15: Pirates 8, Cubs 7

April 16: Pirates 6, Cubs 1

At Pittsburgh

April 24: Cubs 14, Pirates 3

April 25: Cubs 1, Pirates 0

April 26: Pirates 6, Cubs 5

At Pittsburgh

June 16: Cubs 9, Pirates 5

June 17: Pirates 4, Cubs 3

June 18: Cubs 9, Pirates 1

Schedule

Friday, 2:20 p.m. - Trevor Williams (3-3, 4.67 ERA) vs. Eddie Butler (4-3, 4.18), TV: Root, MLB Network (out of market)

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. - Ivan Nova (8-6, 3.24) vs. Jake Arrieta (8-6, 4.33), TV: Fox

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. - Jameson Taillon (5-2, 2.73) vs. Jon Lester (5-5, 3.94), TV: Root, TBS

Cubs

42-43 (43-43 Pythag, 4.56 RS/G, 4.47 RA/G)

Offense

Anthony Rizzo (.263/.394/.510, 19 HR) and Kris Bryant (.263/.394/.505, 16 HR) are still doing just fine. Willson Contreras (.258/.327/.449) is now the full-time catcher after the Miguel Montero shenanigans. Local dude Ian Happ was called up in mid May, and is the Cubs’ fourth-best position player by fWAR (1.4, .269/.337/.569, 12 HR). Kyle Schwarber (.171/.295/.378) has notably struggled this year. He was notably sent down to Triple-A and, after 11 notable games, was notably called up.

Pitching

As a unit, the Cubs’ staff is ranks 11th in the majors in fWAR (8.5). Their bullpen is also 11th (3.0), while the starters are smack-dab in the middle at 15th (8.5). Game One starter Eddie Butler hasn’t been terribly effective (5.32 K/9, 4.56 BB/9). He’s benefited from a 6.3 percent home-run-to-fly-ball rate. Jake Arrieta (9.31 K/9, 3.10 BB/9) resides on this earth again, but remains talented, and Jon Lester (9.22 K/9, 2.85 BB/9) has been the Cubs’ best starter. John Lackey, who wasn’t scheduled to pitch in this series anyway, has been placed on the disabled list with ... plantar fasciitis. Wade Davis is a deserving all-star, as far as relievers go, generally, and Carl Edwards Jr., Koji Uehara and Pedro Strop have been solid leading up to him.

Outlook

I’m getting tired of squinting at the Pirates, visualizing ways they might become a contender in a weak division. It hasn’t happened. I’m going to wait and see. I’m sure a sweep in Chicago would get people fired up again — and that’s perfectly fine. But we’re fooling ourselves if we’re holding our breath for the Pirates to make their big sprint up the standings every other week.

Poll

How goes the weekend at Wrigley?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Pirates sweep!
    (52 votes)
  • 40%
    2-1 Pirates
    (117 votes)
  • 30%
    2-1 Cubs
    (87 votes)
  • 10%
    Cubs sweep.
    (31 votes)
287 votes total Vote Now