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What happened to the Cubs in Pittsburgh? Maybe it’s PNC Park

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The Cubs have played the Pirates well at home, while getting trounced in the Steel City.

Is this ballpark bad for the Cubs? Maybe
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs just had a lousy weekend in Pittsburgh, losing two of the three games and getting beaten badly in the last two, losing them by a combined score of 15-3.

But that came after a winning series in Wrigley Field against the very same team, winning two of three and outscoring the Bucs 12-9.

And the Pirates lost their best player, Ke’Bryan Hayes, to injury during that Wrigley Field series and wound up putting together that 15-3 combined score against the Cubs without him.

So what’s going on here?

What if I told you I think it might be playing in Pittsburgh?

Wait, hear me out.

From the time the Cubs returned to contention in 2015 through August 1, 2018, the Cubs regularly beat up on the Pirates — and that included a pretty good 98-win Pirates team in 2015. In that time frame the Cubs were 41-26 against the Pirates, which included a 21-13 record at PNC Park (with one tie game there in 2016), not including the 2015 Wild Card Game victory.

But starting with a road trip to PNC Park August 16, 2018, the Cubs’ home and road records vs. the Pirates have diverged in a significant manner.

You might remember that August 2018 series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Cubs scored exactly one run in each of the four games, all on solo homers (Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Schwarber again). They managed to win two of the four, as the pitching staff spun shutouts in the first two.

The Cubs are 24-19 against the Pirates since that 2018 date, but the home and road marks differ significantly. Here are the Cubs’ records against the Pirates at Wrigley Field and at PNC Park since August 16, 2018:

Cubs vs. Pirates at Wrigley Field, August 16, 2018 to date

Year W L RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED
Year W L RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED
2018 2 2 11 17
2019 8 1 90 31
2020 3 0 12 7
2021 2 1 12 9
TOTAL 15 4 125 64

Cubs record vs. Pirates at PNC Park, August 16, 2018 to date

YEAR W L RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED
YEAR W L RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED
2018 2 2 4 5
2019 3 7 35 57
2020 3 4 26 27
2021 1 2 7 17
TOTAL 9 15 72 106

Now you explain that to me. That’s a total of 43 games, 19 at home and 24 on the road (the Cubs played more games in Pittsburgh against the Pirates than at Wrigley in 2020). Unlike the nine games so far this season that people seem to be overreacting to, this is not really a small sample size. The same players, in general, were involved in all of these games each year.

At home, the Cubs have played like World Series champions against the Bucs since late 2018 — that’s a .789 winning percentage and nearly double the run total.

But at PNC? The .375 winning percentage would equate to a 61-101 full-season record and they’ve been outscored there by 34 runs over the 24 games.

What’s producing these results?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I honestly have no idea. Do the Cubs have a lousy hotel in Pittsburgh and don’t get enough rest? Are the clubhouse facilities not to their liking? Do they not like the hitters’ background? Are they getting bad pierogies to eat? If you have any idea what’s going on here, let us know.

But all of those are just random questions that don’t really address the issue. It does appear clear that something is happening to the Chicago Cubs when they visit PNC Park, and it’s been going on for nearly three years — while at the same time, the same Cubs teams have defeated the same Pirates with regularity at Wrigley Field.

The bad start the 2021 Cubs have had has many fans yelling “Fire sale!” It is, of course, way too early to even think about that.

What the Cubs should be thinking about is how happy they should be to have departed Pittsburgh late Sunday. They don’t have to return until the end of May. By then, perhaps they can figure out why they don’t hit, or win, in PNC Park.