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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Pirates Series Preview

This will be a good test of how good the Cubs really are this year.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Usually in this space, I present a few (or many) words from the manager of our opponent's SB Nation site, in this case Bucs Dugout.

Despite a couple of emails, I never heard back. So instead, here are my thoughts about the Pirates.

The Pirates have nearly matched the Cubs in runs (133, to the Cubs' 139) and walks (110 to 124). They're leading the National League in BA (.290), hits (259), OBP (.375) and are second in the league in team OPS (.821, to the Cubs' .780).

On the other hand, the Cubs dwarf the Bucs in team ERA (2.41 to 4.10) and have allowed 54 fewer runs. The Cubs lead the Pirates in run differential by 60 (+78 to +18).

So it'll be up to the Cubs' good pitching to stop the Pirates' good hitting. The Pirates have scored five or more runs in 13 of their 15 wins thus far.

Fun fact

The Pirates would have run away with the N.L. Central in 2015 if they could have won games within the division. They had losing records against all four divisional opponents and were 34-42 within the Central. They're doing better so far this year: 8-4 combined vs. the Cardinals (3-0), Reds (3-3) and Brewers (2-1). However, they're just 7-6 outside of the N.L. Central so far this year.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Jason Hammel (3-0, 0.75 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, 2.49 FIP) vs. Gerrit Cole (2-2, 2.78 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, 2.77 FIP)

Tuesday: Jake Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.778 WHIP, 2.86 FIP) vs. Jonathon Niese (3-0, 5.08 ERA, 1.482 WHIP, 5.80 FIP)

Wednesday: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.83 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 3.28 FIP) vs. Juan Nicasio (3-2, 3.33 ERA, 1.148 WHIP, 3.71 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 6:05 CT, CSN Chicago, ESPN (outside Chicago & Pittsburgh markets)

Tuesday: 6:05 CT, WPWR, MLB Network (outside Chicago & Pittsburgh markets)

Wednesday: 11:35 a.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago & Pittsburgh markets


If not for this past week's rainouts at Wrigley Field, we'd have had a rematch of the 2015 wild-card game on Monday. The second rainout was actually beneficial to the Cubs' rotation, as they were able to shuffle the rotation and have their top three starters going in this set. Pirates starting pitching other than Cole doesn't really frighten me. The Cubs won the season series from the Pirates 11-8 last year and were 7-4 in PNC Park (including the wild-card game), winning the last four games they played there in 2015. It won't be easy, but I say the Cubs win two of three.

Up next

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field to begin a 10-game homestand. First up is the Washington Nationals, in for a four-game set beginning Thursday evening.