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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Pirates series preview

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This is a pretty anonymous Pirates team that opens the 2021 season against the Cubs.

Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Here we are!

It’s the start of the first MLB 162-game season in two years. That sounds weird, doesn’t it?

The Cubs welcome a divisional rival to Wrigley Field to start the season, the Pirates. It’s the third time in the last four years that the Bucs have been the Cubs’ opponent for the home opener, though this is the first of those three where it’s the season opener as well.

For more on the Pirates, here’s Darren Yuvan, managing editor of our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout:

The Bucs have been bad for a while now, and no one expects that to change this season, so drawing the Cubs in the season opener isn’t exactly the best way to kick start the new year for a team looking to find their way, but there are a few reasons for optimism in Pittsburgh.

The team hovered around .500 throughout Spring Training, finishing 13-14, and they’ve had some pretty good appearances on the mound in the Grapefruit League, though I expect they’ll lack consistency and the staff is once again projected near the bottom of the league in WAR. The Cubs will get Chad Kuhl in the opener, likely followed by Tyler Anderson and Mitch Keller, and all three are capable of good outings or getting totally bombed.

At the plate, the name to look out for is Ke’Bryan Hayes, who is the most talented young player on the team right now. He’s in just his second year, but the sky is the limit for this gifted 24-year-old third baseman. He hit .376 in 24 games last year and followed that up by hitting .431 this spring. He should be exciting to watch.

Shortstop Kevin Newman hit a ridiculous .606 down in Florida this year, which is a new Bucs Spring Training record, so hopefully he can keep that hot bat going, and other than Hayes, the power will come from Colin Moran, Gregory Polanco, and Bryan Reynolds, though none of them are particularly scary. The Bucs were one of the worst power hitting teams in the league last year, and that likely continues this season.

On paper, I think this Bucs team has gotten a little better overall, but they’re still likely to be bad, and the Cubbies should take this series without much issue.

Fun fact

The Pirates had the worst record in baseball in 2020 (19-41). However, they played reasonably well against NL Central teams — 16-24 — while going just 3-17 against AL Central teams.

Pitching matchups (2020 record)

Thursday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (6-5, 2.88 ERA, 0.996 WHIP, 3.55 FIP) vs. Chad Kuhl, RHP (2-3, 4.27 ERA, 1.360 WHIP, 5.48 FIP)

Saturday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (4-4, 5.08 ERA, 1.511 WHIP, 4.66 FIP) vs. Tyler Anderson, LHP (4-3, 4.37 ERA, 1.391 WHIP, 4.36 FIP)

Sunday: Zach Davies, RHP (7-4, 2.73 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 3.88 FIP) vs. Mitch Keller, RHP (1-1, 2.91 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 6.74 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Prediction

Darren Yuvan is right about Ke’Bryan Hayes — he crushed Cubs pitching last September (.333/.360/.625, 8-for-24, two home runs). But I think the Cubs have three good pitching matchups here, favorable all three days.

So while I’d like to see a Cubs sweep, I don’t like predicting them here. So I’ll say the Cubs will take two of the three games.

Up next

The Cubs host the Brewers in a three-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Pirates?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    3
    (107 votes)
  • 45%
    2
    (124 votes)
  • 8%
    1
    (24 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (17 votes)
272 votes total Vote Now