The Pirates have begun the 2018 season well and as we begin this three-game set, they are in first place in the N.L. Central and lead the Cubs by two games.
I asked Eli Nellis, manager of our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout, to tell us a little about his team.
The Pirates are off to a 7-2 start, which has come in stark contrast to a dreary offseason that saw the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole . It’s going to take a lot more winning to capture the vocal faction of fans disillusioned by ownership to the point of a boycott, but this isn’t entirely a fluke, either. There’s a shell of a decent team here. Cole will be missed, but the MVP McCutchen whose loss people are mourning is not the same, 2018 McCutchen plying his trade in San Francisco. The 2018 Pirates shouldn’t be much worse than the 2017 version, and they actually have a good chance at being better.
Jameson Taillon has had one good start and another excellent one so far. You’ll be glad for the Cubs to miss him this week. Ivan Nova seems to be leveling off after an initial burst of improvement when he got to Pittsburgh in 2016 and Steven Brault is a fine swingman, filling in for Joe Musgrove. Trevor Williams, though, is probably the best starter the Pirates will send out in this series.
This rotation doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but there’s a solid base to work from. It’s unlikely the pitchers will have as few injuries as they had last year, when they rolled five starters for months at a time, but there’s enough there that the rotation isn’t going to sink this team.
The bullpen hasn’t had the best go of it so far, but there are enough pieces to reorganize into a passable group as the season goes on.
Gregory Polanco’s hot start has been an especially bright spot of the season. We’ve seen this from him before, and he has yet to become more of the star-level player people have dreamed on, but this certainly isn’t a bad sign. Colin Moran, a big part of the Cole deal, has provided early returns, too, which is especially promising for a guy without a lot of big-league experience.
The last time the Cubs had a home opener against the Pirates was April 1, 2011, which was also the season opener. The Cubs lost that game 6-3; I pass the boxscore link along for amusement value.
Monday: Tyler Chatwood, RHP (0-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 4.66 FIP) vs. Ivan Nova, RHP (0-1, 6.10 ERA, 1.452 WHIP, 4.05 FIP)
Wednesday: Jon Lester, LHP (1-0, 2.89 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.88 FIP) vs. Steven Brault (2-0, 1.13 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 3.12 FIP)
Thursday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (0-0, 4.09 ERA, 1.545 WHIP, 5.63 FIP) vs. Trevor Williams (2-0, 1.59 ERA, 1.412 WHIP, 3.78 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, WGN
Thursday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Pittsburgh markets)
The Pirates might be a hot team right now, but in my view they’re not quite that good. The Cubs will win two of three.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Pirates?
This poll is closed