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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Pirates series preview

The Cubs return to the Friendly Confines, trying to right the ship.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Cubs are 9-1 against the Pirates and 69-71 against all other teams.

The Pirates are 1-9 against the Cubs and... 69-71 against all other teams.

Yikes. That’s kinda scary.

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

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of their best stretch of baseball in quite some time this season, owning a .533 winning percentage in September.

It hasn’t been the most thrilling season for the Pirates and manager Derek Shelton, but the club has shown strides since deploying and trusting its young core to play every day.

The Bucs begin their final road trip of 2023 with a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. Since the trade deadline, the Pirates have played significantly better baseball.

A tale of two seasons defines the current Pirates, plating a 42-30 record in 72 games spanning March/April, August, and September, compared to a 27-49 (.355) mark from May, June, and July.

Regardless of the month, time period, or who was sent onto the field, the Pirates have suffocated themselves against the Cubs. The Bucs are 1-9 against their division rivals. Yes, you read that right. Their lone win came on Friday, August 25, in a 2-1 victory thanks to eight strong innings of one-run ball from Mitch Keller. The Cubs took three out of four in the series.

The Pirates have not officially announced a starter for Tuesday or Thursday’s game. Keller will go Wednesday opposite former Bucco No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon.

Rookie reliever Carmen Mlodzinski has been a great story as the seventh-inning man and emerged in the second half. The former first-rounder from South Carolina owns a 2.03 ERA this year and has only allowed one run in 7.1 September frames. Lefty Ryan Borucki’s been a pleasant surprise and holds a 2.80 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 35⅓ innings. David Bednar continues to be one of the best closers in baseball, racking up his 36th save over the weekend.

With a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees Sunday at PNC Park, the Pirates reached the 70-win mark, a plateau the club hasn’t seen since 2018 (82-79). So far, the club’s improved their win total from last season by eight games with 12 remaining. Being able to overcome the Cubs will be a significant step in improving that total ever further to close the season.

Fun facts

As noted above, the Cubs are 9-1 against the Pirates and 69-71 against everyone else.

They are +47 in run differential against the Pirates and +39 against everyone else, in 14 times as many games.

Since 2015, the Cubs are 49-22 vs. the Pirates at home.

In the wins, their average margin has been more than four runs, as they have outscored the Pirates by 218 runs, 354-136.

They have scored at least 10 runs in 13 of the wins, including routs of 21-0, 17-8, 17-3, 16-6 and 14-1.

(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)

Probable pitching matchups

Tuesday: Javier Assad, RHP (3-3, 3.10 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 4.49 FIP) vs. Bailey Falter, LHP (2-1, 3.62 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, 4.47 FIP in eight games with Pirates; 2-8, 4.40 ERA, 1.300 WHIP, 4.60 FIP in 16 games overall)

Wednesday: Justin Steele, LHP (16-4, 2.73 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 3.09 FIP) vs. Mitch Keller, RHP (12-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.243 WHIP, 3.69 FIP)

Thursday: Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.77 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 3.85 FIP) vs. Quinn Priester, RHP (3-2, 9.09 ERA, 1.837 WHIP, 7.02 FIP)

NOTE: At the time this series preview posted, the Pirates didn’t have any starting pitchers listed for any of these games. The pitchers listed above are my best guess based on the Pirates previous rotation, what was sent to us (above) by Austin Bechtold and some other Pirates notes found online.

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Wednesday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Thursday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network


Well, the Cubs need to win these games or playoff dreams will die.

Sometimes, teams have another team’s number in a particular season. That appears to be the case here. I’m going to call for the Cubs to right the ship and sweep this series.

Up next

The Cubs host the Colorado Rockies in a three-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Friday afternoon, the final regular-season home games of 2023.


How many games will the Cubs win against the Pirates?

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  • 26%
    (33 votes)
  • 44%
    (55 votes)
  • 21%
    (27 votes)
  • 8%
    (10 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now