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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Pirates series preview

The Pirates haven’t been good on the road this year. Perhaps that will be good news for the Cubs this weekend.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Well, maybe the Cubs will have a better time against the Pirates, even though they got swept the last time the Bucs were at Wrigley, back in April. Since then the Cubs have won four of six against them.

Eli Nellis, manager of our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout, updates us on his team:

I’m trying to rid myself of the nagging optimism in the back of my mind, occasionally thinking the Pirates might pull into this goofy NL Central race. Anytime that looks like it might start to happen, the Pirates fall back, like getting miserably, excruciatingly swept by the Giants last weekend. However, as has been the case all year, if they can win (and especially sweep) the next series, there will be some optimism once again.

Instead, what’s most up in the air for the team at this point of the year is whether they’ll buy or sell – or in my eyes, whether they sell big or sell small. I really don’t think they’ll trade Gerrit Cole yet. Nothing at all that happens with Andrew McCutchen – who’s pretty darn good again – surprises me anymore. There are a bunch of smaller pieces they could move, though, and a couple more bad series could expedite that.

As for this weekend, the Pirates are throwing a couple guys that have been steady or improving – Trevor Williams has taken a firm grip on a rotation spot with his last few starts, while Jameson Taillon has continued his excellent season since returning from surgery for testicular cancer. Ivan Nova, who’s been quite good on the whole, has been touched up lately.

The bullpen is still a bit of a mess. (I know, whose isn’t?) Felipe Rivero is excellent, and is generally being deployed wisely in a hybrid-closer role, but there’s still nobody else to keep games close or protect leads. The offense has been on the upswing, mainly on McCutchen’s performance, but Jordy Mercer and even John Jaso have been more than useful contributors as of late.

Fun fact

Even though the Cubs are just 4-5 against the Pirates this year, they are 30-17 against them since the beginning of the 2015 season (that includes the 2015 wild-card game).

Pitching matchups

Friday: Eddie Butler, RHP (4-3, 4.18 ERA, 1.415 WHIP, 4.37 FIP) vs. Trevor Williams (3-3, 4.67 ERA, 1.220 WHIP, 3.92 FIP)

Saturday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (8-6, 4.33 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 4.04 FIP) vs. Ivan Nova (8-6, 3.24 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, 4.04 FIP)

Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (5-5, 3.94 ERA, 1.267 WHIP, 3.66 FIP) vs. Jameson Taillon (5-2, 2.73 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 3.50 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)

Saturday: 6:15 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional — coverage map)

Sunday: 12:10 p.m. CT, WGN, TBS (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)


The Pirates are still without Starling Marte, who won’t be eligible for reinstatement from his PED suspension until July 18. The Pirates did win their series against the woeful Phillies, taking three of four in Philadelphia before coming to Wrigley, but before that had lost eight of their previous 12 games. Thus, once again, I’m going to pick the Cubs to win two of three here and go strong into the All-Star break.

Up next

The All-Star break! All the Cubs except Wade Davis get four days off, followed by a series against the Orioles in Baltimore beginning next Friday night, July 14.


How many games will the Cubs win against the Pirates?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    (36 votes)
  • 37%
    (48 votes)
  • 22%
    (29 votes)
  • 11%
    (15 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now