So. This is kind of an important series, eh?
Four games in three days in Pittsburgh, and the Cubs will have a chance to pull right alongside the Pirates in the division. Or, they could have their hopes of gaining traction in the top Wild Card spot, let alone the division, squashed.
Or, they could take three of four, and just kinda hang around. That would be a pretty good outcome, all things considered.
Either way, the atmosphere is likely to be ridiculous, especially when you consider how huge these games are to the Pirates – just 2.5 games behind the Cardinals right now.
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs came within a handful of outs of sweeping the Cardinals, but couldn’t make it happen. They were then pretty darn close to sweeping the Phillies in four games, but ill-timed bullpen malfunctions cost the Cubs their last two games.
The Pirates have the second best record in baseball, and, as such, are frequently rather hot. Their latest hot streak is a five of six stretch against the Brewers and Reds, but you could go back to the start of the season and say they’ve won 86 of their last 142, and, thus, they are hot.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Tuesday, September 14 at 12:35 CT on CSN.
- Tuesday, September 15 at 6:05 CT on WGN-9, MLBN.
- Wednesday, September 16 at 6:05 CT on CSN, ESPN.
- Thursday, September 17 at 11:35 CT on WGN-9, MLBN.
And, if you’re not in the blackout region, you can always watch on MLB.tv.
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
Starters: Jason Hammel (3.59 ERA, 3.72 FIP; 4.28 K/BB), Jon Lester (3.50 ERA, 3.01 FIP; 4.09 K/BB), Jake Arrieta (1.99 ERA, 2.52 FIP; 4.43 K/BB), Kyle Hendricks (4.08 ERA, 3.47 FIP; 3.34 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Chris Coghlan/Austin Jackson, RF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Miguel Montero, C
- Javy Baez/Starlin Castro/Tommy La Stella, 2B
- Addison Russell, SS
Starters: Gerrit Cole (2.54 ERA, 2.70 FIP; 4.17 K/BB), J.A. Happ (1.79 ERA, 2.23 FIP; 6.0 K/BB), A.J. Burnett (3.14 ERA, 3.22 FIP; 3.08 K/BB), Charlie Morton (4.02 ERA, 4.00 FIP; 2.30 K/BB)
- Gregory Polanco, RF
- Starling Marte, LF (if he’s back)
- Andrew McCutchen, CF
- Jung-Ho Kang, SS
- Neil Walker, 2B
- Aramis Ramirez, 1B
- Josh Harrison, 3B
- Francisco Cervelli, C
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
As Luis wrote late last week, Starlin Castro is among the hottest Cubs when he gets into the lineup. Many folks, then, wonder why he isn’t playing more … to which I always respond: isn’t it possible that Joe Maddon picking and choosing spots for Castro is a part of the reason he’s been so hot? Let Joe keep doing his thing, and Starlin can keep doing his thing.
It’s been a rough patch for Anthony Rizzo, who is hitting just .200/.309/.414 since August 25. But, hey, even that’s only a 97 wRC+. If that’s what his slumps look like, then great.
Over the past month, all Chris Coghlan has done is hit .309/.391/.654.
J.A. Happ has been fantastic since coming to the Pirates in a Trade Deadline deal, though it’s debatable how much that is actual improvement, and how much it is him feasting on crummy opponents. Indeed, he’s really had only one bad outing with the Pirates, and it was his first one. But it came against the Cubs.
The Pirates’ bullpen has been so dang good this year, man. Joe BLANTON has a 1.38 ERA and 2.07 FIP pitching out of the Pirates’ bullpen this year.
The Pirates really won the day when they got Jung-Ho Kang, who’s arguably already justified his entire contract and posting fee (about $16 million total) by hitting .290/.359/.467 this year, while playing solid defense around the infield.
Starting to think a bunch of teams really missed the boat on catcher Francisco Cervelli, too, who is not only among the best receivers in baseball, he’s hitting .300/.380/.411 … which actually isn’t that far out of whack with what he’s done the rest of his career when he’s actually been given a chance. If you were wondering how the Pirates didn’t suffer badly for losing Russell Martin, this is how. They completely and totally replaced him.