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Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, July 7 – July 9, 2017

Series Previews
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Well that certainly didn’t go as planned.

Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs got their butts beaten by the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, and they are now a game below .500 and 4.5 games back of first place. There’s still plenty of time and I’m still taking the Cubs in the Central, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that this whole winning thing isn’t a foregone conclusion anymore.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (42-43) just lost a series to the Reds, split a two-game series with the Rays, and lost a one-game make-up to the Brewers. Things are not great, as they head into the All-Star break in second place.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (40-46) just took three out of four from the Phillies after being swept by the Giants at home. Like the Cubs, the Pirates are having a very dissapointing season and currently stand 7.0 games out of first place in the NL Central.


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Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, July 7 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, July 8 at 6:15 CT on FOX, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, July 9 at 12:10 CT on WGN, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Eddie Butler (4.18 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 5.37 xFIP; 1.17 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (4.33 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 3.88 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.94 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.61 xFIP; 3.24 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ian Happ, CF
  5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  6. Willson Contreras, C
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher

* Obviously, Javy Baez figures to work in prominently, as does Jon Jay, who’s been hitting well lately.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Starters:

  • Trevor Williams (4.67 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 4.53 xFIP; 2.83 K/BB)
  • Ivan Nova (3.24 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 4.17 xFIP; 4.36 K/BB)
  • Jameson Taillon (2.73 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.72 xFIP; 2.68 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Adam Frazier, LF
  2. Josh Harrison, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Josh Bell, 1B
  5. David Freese, 3B
  6. Gregory Polanco, RF
  7. Francisco Cervelli, C
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

We’ll talk about each of the starting pitchers throughout the weekend (in each contests’ individual Pre-Gamin’ post), but, for the most part, you know the deal: things haven’t been great.


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Instead, for now, I want to focus on the relievers. Namely, Justin Grimm.

Although he’s allowed four earned runs in his last 4.1 innings pitched, Grimm has been pretty fantastic since rejoining the big league pen back at the end of May: 2.41 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 3.67 xFIP. His walk rate is a bit high during that stretch (10.3%), but his strikeout rate is strong (29.4%) and he’s holding batters to a .115 average.

By now, you should know that Grimm is a pretty streaky reliever, shuttling back and forth between dominance and unevenness, but when he’s in one of his grooves, he can be very very good.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Ian Happ’s hit streak was snapped at seven games yesterday, which is exactly how long his last streak lasted before it was broken nine games ago. He has now hit safely in all but three of his last 22 games (dating back to June 13).


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During that stretch (96 PAs), he’s slashed .315/.351/.629 with seven home runs, a triple, and five doubles (28 hits overall). His oft-discussed strikeout rate also happens to be much better (27.1%) during that stretch. He’s good.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitching

The pitching match-ups this weekend get tougher and more interesting as the series progresses. Today, Eddie Butler squares up against Trevor Williams in what represents the two weakest pitchers of the weekend on both sides.

But tomorrow, Jake Arrieta faces Ivan Nova, who’s been getting good results this year. And then, on Sunday, the Cubs best pitcher, Jon Lester, takes on the Pirates best, Jameson Taillon, in the last game before the break.

If the Cubs want to win this series, they’ll need to win early on, because Taillon has the ability to dominate (he’s allowed just two earned runs in his past 17.1 IP).


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Pittsburgh Pirates – Offense

Pirates’ sophomore Josh Bell is not quite having the year at the plate for which he had hoped: .229/.314/.465. He’s still hitting for power, as his .236 ISO and .465 SLG show, but he’s not been living up to the promise just yet.

Fortunately for him, his 10.8% walk rate and 19.4% strikeout rate have played really well, and have helped make him an above average bat overall (104 wRC+).

Andrew McCutchen is officially having a fantastic year (136 wRC+), and has been on fire lately. Since May 24, he’s slashed .403/.497/.724 which is good for a laughable .502 wOBA and 218 wRC+.


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Good for him. Now stop it, please.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.

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