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Series Preview: Cubs host Pirates to kick off the second half

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates try to build off of their strong finish to the first half of the season as they travel north to Wrigley Field to battle with the Cubs. All games in this series will be matinees. Chicago is in first and has a half game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central. Pittsburgh is just 2.5 games behind the Cubs and two games ahead of the Reds, who reside in last place.

The Cubs sort of stumbled while closing out the first half of their 2019 season, dropping six of their last ten which includes dropping three of four against the Pirates last week. They currently have a +55 run differential and are 29-16 at home. The Bucs have won six of their last ten and are on a two-game winning streak. They’ve also narrowed their run differential down to -36.

The Pirates lead the 2019 series four games to three. First pitch is set for Friday at 2:20 EST

Schedule

Friday, 2:20 p.m — Chris Archer (3-6, 5.49 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (2-4, 5.01 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Saturday, 2:20 p.m. — Jordan Lyles (5-5, 4.36 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (8-6, 3.72 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Sunday, 2:20 p.m. — Trevor Williams (3-2, 4.54 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (6-7, 4.19 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

All games EST

Cubs Notes

Offense

-Kris Bryant and Javier Baez have been the Cubs best hitters going into the All-Star break. Bryant has a .514 OBP with a .323 ISO through 37 plate appearances. Baez is hitting .316 with three home runs and ten RBIs in his last nine games.

C-

-Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo have been good offensive contributors, both with above average wRC+ figures, 131 and 106 respectively. Rizzo has struck out in only 15% of plate appearances (41) and Heyward has been walking in 13.3% (30 PAs)

-Willson Contreras is probably hoping the layover will allow him to regroup offensively. He’s hitting .188 with a .271 wOBA durin ghis last eight games. His BABIP of .208 during that time frame would suggest he’s due for a rebound.

Pitching

-Yu Darvish starts the second half of the 2019 season on the mound for the Cubs. His last three starts have not been good— 17.2 IP with 13 ERs off of 16 hits. His K/BB ratio is good, however, at 5-1. Darvish has given up at least four runs in five of his last eight starts. He’s faced the Pirates twice, once back in April (5.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 ER, 2 HR allowed) and his last start back on the 3rd of July (6.2 IP, 7 hits, 4 ER, 2 HR, 6 K, 0 BB).

-35-year-old staff veteran Jon Lester goes in game two and last faced the Pirates back on April 8th (2 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER). Lester has had a decent stretch going back to early June. He’s had 5 quality starts but also four starts where he’s allowed at least three earned runs. In his last 18 innings pitched, he’s allowed 16 hits with just four earned runs and 18 strikeouts to five walks.

-Jose Quintana closes the series out on Sunday afternoon. His last two starts have been great— 13 innings pitched, three earned runs on 12 hits with ten Ks and just one walk. The start prior to those last two was a disaster as he gave up eight earned runs (three HRs) off nine hits in 4.1 innings pitched against the New York Mets. Since May 5th, he’s allowed two runs or less in five of his 12 starts.