Both the Pirates and Cubs are coming off sweeping their opponents in the previous series. The Pirates swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix while the Cubs went 2-0 in Cincinnati. Regardless, there is not much to update you about the Pirates, since the Cubs just finished playing them four days ago when the teams split a four-game series.
Pittsburgh has quite a lot of momentum on their side, winning the past five games and eight of 10. The main story from their past series is their pitching who gave up only two runs in three games. In their most recent win, Francisco Liriano pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings, giving up three hits.
Second baseman Neil Walker leads the Pirates offense with a .300 batting average while left fielder Starling Marte has 13 RBI and five home runs. Walker and Marte have been the backbone of the Pirates' offense, something noted in the second game in their past series when Marte's ninth-inning single drove in Walker for the go-ahead run in a 2-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
As for the Cubs, it will be interesting to see how rookie Addison Russell adjusts to playing at Wrigley. Russell has struck out 12 times in his first five games, but came through big time yesterday with hitting a bases-clearing double that was the key blow in a four-run inning.
Probable Starters (2015 stats)
Game One: Jason Hammel (1-1, 5.19 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) vs. Vance Worley (2-1, 4.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Game Two: Travis Wood (1-1, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) vs. Jeff Locke (2-0, 3.32 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Game Three: Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 5.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) vs. Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2,19 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
In game one, it could be a tough matchup against Worley who is 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs. His last outing against the Cubs was last Wednesday, where he threw 5⅔ innings giving up one run on six hits. Last time Wood faced the Pirates, also last week, he threw five innings giving up three runs on four hits. In the series finale, Hendricks once again faces the Pirates. Last week Kyle threw 5⅓ innings against the Bucs, allowing three earned runs.
Even though the Cubs split the series last week against the Pirates, it could have easily been 3-1 or a sweep, as the two defeats were both by one run. Nevertheless, I expect the Cubs to win this series two games to one. The primary thing propelling the Cubs' offense is their .321 on-base percentage (currently tied for fourth-best in the N.L. and a huge improvement over last year's .300). Additionally, Kris Bryant and company appear to be settling in and being more comfortable in the box, especially with runners in scoring position.
Fun note: if you are headed to the game on Tuesday NFL legends Kurt Warner and Michael Irvin throw out ceremonial pitches as the Cubs celebrate Wrigley Field's football history this week.
The Milwaukee Brewers head to Wrigley for a three game series. Jon Lester throws on Friday, still trying to find his first win as a Cub.