Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Dates: Monday, September 4, 2017 – Thursday, September 7, 2017
Location: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Monday’s loss meant back-to-back losses for the Pirates after a six-game winning streak that included a three-game sweep of the Pirates in Chicago. Each time the Cubs look to be getting on a roll, they take a step backward. Time is ticking away for the Brewers or Cardinals to mount any serious threat to the Cubs for the NL Central lead, but this squad has been far from consistent—or dependable—throughout the season. The Game 1 blowout loss to the Pirates is just the latest example.
Pittsburgh is on a three-game winning streak, allowing just one run in those three games. The pitching is stepping up though it’s a bit late as the Pirates are out of the postseason picture. Even with the bright spot the last three games, a larger sample shows a team that’s still only 8-14 in its last 22 games. The Pirates offense has struggled during those 22 games, scoring just one run six times. Andrew McCutchen is playing more like he did in April than he did in June. Starling Marte has never gotten into a groove and with Josh Harrison now on the DL, there’s little support for McCutchen and Josh Bell. As for the bullpen, this team just gave away Juan Nicasio, leaving the Pirates with little leading up to Felipe Rivero in the ninth.
Game 2 Probable Pitchers – Tuesday, September 5, 2017, 7:05 p.m. ET ( Local TV )
Kyle Hendricks ( Cubs ) vs. Steven Brault ( Pirates )
Kyle Hendircks hasn’t had the other worldly results from last year, but he’s 6-4 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.237 WHIP in 19 starts. The most notable part of that line is the lack of decisions. The run support—and bullpen support—just hasn’t been there. The team is 10-9 in his starts, but they’ve won each of his last three games with Hendricks getting the decision in the last two. As for the Pirates, he last faced them on April 25, holding them scoreless over six frames. Over his career, he’s faced the Pirates nine times, going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA.
Here on September 5, the Pirates will get their first start of the season by a lefty. This will be Steven Brault’s first starts and seventh appearances with the big club in 2017. He started seven games last year and put up a 4.86 ERA in 33.1 innings. He’s pitched 13.2 big league innings in 2017k, allowing 12 runs—nine earned—while allowing 20 hits and walking six. In Triple-A, the young southpaw pitched to a 1.94 ERA in 21 games, spanning 120.1 innings. He showed much better command in the zone with only 85 hits in 120.1 innings though walks were still elevated at 3.3 per nine innings. In his brief Major League career, Brault has done much better against lefties than righties. Look for Joe Maddon to exploit the issues against righties, sending a right-handed heavily lineup against him. In 182 plate appearances, righties have a .921 OPS against him, hitting all five homers he’s allowed.
Game 3 Probable Pitchers – Wednesday, September 6, 2017, 7:05 p.m. ET ( WGN )
Jose Quintana ( Cubs ) vs. Gerrit Cole ( Pirates )
Since joining the Cubs to help stabilize a slumping rotation, Jose Quintana has been okay, nothing more and nothing less. He’s 5-3 with a 4.50 ERA in nie starts. His FIP and WHIP indicated he’s been a bit better than those numbers. He’s striking out 10.7 per nine innings, but he’s been hurt by the long ball from time-to-time, allowing eight in 52 innings. Combined with his start with the White Sox, Quintana has allowed 22 homers with 21 of them coming off right-handed hitters. Quintana has held lefties to a .596 OPS.
His 11-9 record and 4.11 ERA isn’t great, but the right-hander leads the team—and league—in starts with 28 and his 173 innings, along with the numbers mentioned above, make him the best the Pirates can offer. He’s coming off a rough start against Cincinnati, allowing five runs in six innings, it was his second five run performance in three starts. In two starts against the Cubs this year, he’s allowed two runs in 13 innings. He’s pitched to a 9-4 record and 2.74 ERA against them in his career. Head-to-head, the current Cubs are batting .219 against him collectively with the injured Addison Russell being the only one with a demonstrated history of success against him.
Game 4 Probable Pitchers – Thursday, September 7, 2017, 7:05 p.m. ET ( MLB Network )
Jon Lester ( Cubs ) vs. Jameson Taillon ( Pirates )
Jon Lester came off the disabled list on Saturday and allowed four runs in five innings against the Braves. The Cubs ended up winning that game 14-12, improving to 15-12 when Lester is on the mound. While the southpaw back on the hill was a welcomed sight for Chicago, he struggled with his command, leaving pitches up out over the plate. He got punished for the errors, too, allowing three homers which led to his early exit from the game.
In a season filled with turmoil for the youngster that overcame testicular cancer earlier in the year, Jameson Taillon has had an okay year by the numbers. His 4.50 ERA and 1.509 WHIP leave plenty to be desired, but his 7-5 record and 3.50 FIP lend themselves to plenty of optimism for the youngster going forward. Taillon had a five-game stretch from late July through August where his ERA rose from 3.08 to 4.85 with 30 runs allowed. His last two starts—both against the Reds—have been more encouraging. Two starts ago, he went four innings and allowed two runs—only one earned—the pitch count got away from him, but he avoided disaster. Then, last time out, he allowed just three hits and a walk in six scoreless.