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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Pirates series preview

The Cubs haven’t seen the Pirates since just before the London Series. Much has happened since then.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Cubs are 6-0 against the Pirates so far this year and have outscored them 48-14.

The Cubs also won five of their last six against the Pirates in 2022, winning three of four at PNC Park, so they have won six of their last seven in Pittsburgh. And since the most recent Cubs/Pirates series in June, the Cubs are 30-22, the Pirates 23-31.

For more on the Pirates, here’s Austin Bechtold, a writer for our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have experienced an up-and-down 2023 season. Following a 20-8 start highlighted by solid pitching, clutch hitting, the return of Andrew McCutchen, and contract extensions for manager Derek Shelton and outfielder Bryan Reynolds, the Bucs are 37-62 since.

In mid-June, the Pirates recalled 2021 No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis from Triple-A Indianapolis and evoked a youth movement, similar to the Cincinnati Reds, that brought optimism and excitement to the ballclub. The success has not been as immediate compared to the Reds. Still, young players like catcher Endy Rodriguez, infielder Liover Peguero, and others have shown flashes of being dependable in the box and across the diamond to provide hope for a bright future in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates won the first two of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park this week, highlighted by an 11-1 trouncing on Monday. In the victory, Rodriguez and Peguero combined for three walks, four hits, and three RBI. Former Cardinal Johan Oviedo delivered five innings of one-run ball Tuesday in a 6-3 victory, which saw Andrew McCutchen hit his 299th career home run off Adam Wainwright. McCutchen begins the series looking to enter the history books as the 19th player in MLB history to amass 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 runs, and 200 stolen bases.

St. Louis salvaged the final game by a 6-4 final score after young starter Luis Ortiz gave up five in the first two innings. Ortiz made his first start since July 4 and allowed five walks and seven hits in 3⅓ innings pitched.

Playing top prospects hasn’t gone entirely smoothly for the fourth-place Bucs, who are 9½ back of the Cubs for second place. Davis is on the IL with a hand injury, 2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzales was sent back to Triple-A once he cooled off from a tremendous first week in the bigs, and 2019 first-rounder Quinn Priester owns an ERA over nine.

Most of the probable starting pitchers for the four-game series in Pittsburgh remain a mystery, though Mitch Keller is apparently in line to start Friday. The Pirates are 57-70 overall and looking to take another series against a divisional opponent.

Fun fact

The Cubs’ opponent for the next four games will be the Pirates.

The Pirates are a member of the National League. The Cubs used to play against teams in the National League in every game, for entire seasons, start to finish, from 1876 through 1996.

Tonight will be their first game against another member of the National League in more than two weeks, since August 9, during which they played 11 games and went 7-4.

The Cubs have played 2,588 games vs. the Pirates, 88 more than against the Cardinals, their second most frequent opponent.

Their 1,265 wins vs. the Pirates are two fewer than against the Cardinals. Their 1,305 losses are 91 more.

The Cubs have both more wins (583) and more losses (709) at Pittsburgh than anywhere outside Chicago.

(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)

Probable pitching matchups

Thursday: Justin Steele, LHP (14-3, 2.80 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 3.12 FIP) vs. TBD

Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (5-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, 4.03 FIP) vs. Mitch Keller, RHP (10-8, 4.22 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, 3.71 FIP)

Saturday: Javier Assad, RHP (2-2, 3.13 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 4.67 FIP) vs. TBD

Sunday: Drew Smyly, LHP (9-9, 5.28 ERA, 1.416 WHIP, 5.20 FIP) vs. Bailey Falter, LHP (1-7, 4.53 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 4.83 FIP overall, 1-0, 3.26 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, 5.03 FIP in four games with Pirates)

NOTE: As mentioned by Austin Bechtold, the Pirates’ rotation was up in the air at the time this series preview posted. Some sources list Andre Jackson as the Thursday starter. Hopefully there will be more certainty about that before today’s game preview posts at 4 p.m. CT, as well as a Cubs decision on whether Drew Smyly will go on Sunday, or not.

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 6:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

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

Sunday: 12:35 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network


The Cubs, as noted above, have absolutely dominated the Pirates this year and since July 25, 2022, right after the All-Star break when the Cubs were starting their good second half, the Cubs are 11-1 against the Pirates.

The Cubs won three of four at PNC Park last September. They will do the same this weekend.

Up next

The Cubs return home to take on the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Monday evening.


How many games will the Cubs win against the Pirates?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    (46 votes)
  • 60%
    (141 votes)
  • 15%
    (36 votes)
  • 2%
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now