On August 4, the Pirates lost to the Braves, in so doing dropping two of three in Atlanta. They also fell to .500 at 53-53 and were sixth among wild-card teams.
Since then they've gone 14-8 and moved up to just half a game behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. They've outscored their opponents 99-78 in that span, and just swept the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Injuries and trades have created quite a different Pirates roster than we saw the last time these two teams played just before the All-Star break. None of the three pitchers scheduled to start for the Bucs in this series has started a game against the Cubs this year (Ryan Vogelsong has a couple of relief appearances).
Josh Bell, a top Pirates prospect who made his major-league debut against the Cubs in that July series and hit a grand slam against them July 9, is 8-for-23 with a pair of doubles and five walks since being recalled a little over a week ago. (The slam was off Adam Warren, who's also gone from this matchup.)
These games mean more to the Pirates than they do to the Cubs, but it would still be good to win some games and end August on a high note.
The Cubs are 20-11 against the Pirates since the beginning of the 2015 season, and 10-5 at Wrigley Field (5-1 at Wrigley this year).
Monday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (16-5, 2.62 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, 3.30 FIP) vs. Steven Brault, LHP (0-1, 3.60 ERA, 1.600 WHIP, 4.35 FIP)
Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (12-7, 2.19 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 3.37 FIP) vs. Chad Kuhl, RHP (3-1, 3.50 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 4.23 FIP)
Wednesday: Mike Montgomery, LHP (4-5, 2.60 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 3.49 FIP) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02 ERA, 1.283 WHIP, 4.51 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, ESPN (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)
The Cubs are 9-3 overall against the Pirates this year, and the only loss at Wrigley was a tough one-run affair where the Pirates started Gerrit Cole, who won't go in this series. The Pirates have won 11 of their last 17, including, as noted above, a four-game sweep at Miller Park this past weekend against the Brewers. Despite the Cubs' record against the Bucs this year and their MLB-best 45-19 home record, I hesitate to predict sweeps, even with the pitching matchups all looking favorable for the Cubs. So, two of three.
The San Francisco Giants visit Wrigley Field for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.