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Series Preview: Cubs at Pirates, September 4 – September 7, 2017

Series Previews

The Cubs couldn’t quite complete their second consecutive sweep, but they’ve continued to play quite well here in the second half, while missing many of their key players.


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One of the guys they may yet miss again is Javy Baez, who came out of yesterday’s game with blurry vision after a headfirst slide into second base.

In his place, you might expect to see Mike Freeman at shortstop or even some Ben Zobrist. I know Kris Bryant hinted that he would be the next man up after that, but hopefully we’re a ways away from that scenario.

Get well soon, everybody, this division isn’t locked up yet.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (75-61) have won seven of their past ten games and just wrapped up a six-game winning streak – which included a sweep of these very Pirates just last week. They’re up 3.5 games in the standings with about a month to play.


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The Pittsburgh Pirates (65-72) essentially ended their hopes with a sweep at the hands of the Cubs last week. They did win a series with the Reds over the weekend, but they’re 10.5 games out and behind both the Brewers and Cardinals.

Game Times and Broadcasts

Location: Wrigley Field

  • Monday, September 4 at 3:05 CT on ABC-7, ESPN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, September 5 at 6:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, September 6 at 6:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Thursday, September 7 at 6:05 CT on CSN-C, 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.


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Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Jake Arrieta (3.36 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 4.05 xFIP; 2.94 K/BB) – R
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.32 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 3.99 xFIP; 2.69 K/BB) – R
  • Jose Quintana (4.49 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 3.93 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB) – L
  • Jon Lester (4.46 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 3.38 K/BB) – L

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jon Jay, CF
  2. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  3. Kris Bryant, 3B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Javy Baez, SS (or Ben Zobrist, or Mike Freeman)
  9. Pitcher

Pittsburgh Pirates

Starters:

  • Chad Kuhl (4.54 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 4.62 xFIP; 1.92 K/BB) – R
  • Steven Brault (5.93 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 5.58 xFIP; 1.50 K/BB) – L
  • Gerrit Cole (4.11 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 3.87 xFIP; 3.72 K/BB) – R
  • Jameson Taillon (4.50 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.86 xFIP; 2.55 K/BB) – R

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Adam Frazier, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Josh Bell, 1B
  5. Josh Harrison, 3B
  6. John Jason, RF
  7. Sean Rodriguez, SS
  8. Elias Diaz, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

By the looks of the probables, the Pirates will get a taste of the Cubs’ playoff rotation this week, albeit in something of a befuddled order.

As for who’s hot or not, well, you know Mr. Arrieta has been on fire lately, but we’ll have a dedicated post coming out on him soon. So instead, how about we discuss Kyle Hendricks?


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Hendricks has basically been fantastic in every start since he’s returned from the disabled list, and I’m slowly growing more and more confident in his abilities down the stretch and into the postseason. He’s obviously not quite 2016-Kyle-Hendricks, but since he’s been back (July 24th) he’s looked quite sturdy: 2.31 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 3.88 xFIP.

He can probably stand to get a few more ground balls, but other than that there’s not much to complain about. He’s even lasted deeper into his starts lately, going 6.0 or more innings in five of his past six bouts. Dude’s just pitching well.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

For the season, Kris Bryant is slashing .287/.406/.527 with 25 homers, a 14.6% walk rate (his highest) and a 19.0% strikeout rate (his lowest). His 143 wRC+ ranks 13th in MLB and .394 wOBA ranks 10th.

He did get cold in the Braves series, though, and has now gone hitless in his past 13 plate appearances, with just two walks.


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Jason Heyward is hitting for a ton of average lately (.316 since August 6) and is getting on base plenty (.389 OBP), but can simply not hit for any power (.392 SLG, .076 ISO). I’m glad that he’s seeing the ball well and making contact, but at some point he’s really going to have to get his ISO at least over .100 and that means he’ll need much more than an 18.6% hard-hit rate. After all, the .348 BABIP in his last 90 plate appearances won’t last forever. [Brett: My God. That hard-hit rate is terrifying.]

Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitching

Like the Cubs, the Pirates are sending their four best starters to the mound this week (well, at least according to WAR), and that includes staff ace (and former actual ace) Gerrit Cole).

Cole has made 28 healthy starts this season (173.0 IP so far), but has been lit up quite a bit here lately. Even including a seven inning shutout in Cincinnati on the 26th, Cole has earned a 4.58 ERA over his past six games. The Dodgers and the Reds both hit him up for five runs apiece, while the Brewers scored 4 on Cole in 6.0 innings.

He’s still the type of guy that can absolutely squash a lineup for a day, but he certainly doesn’t look like the starter he was back in 2015. … *pencils in a shutout for Wednesday*


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Pittsburgh Pirates – Offense

The last time these two teams met, the Cubs held the Pirates’ two best hitters – Andrew McCutchen and Josh Bell – to just three hits and a walk over 23 plate appearances.

If the Cubs staff can manage to hold that duo down again, they should have an easy time with the offense this week, as the Pirates’ other best hitter, Josh Harrison, is out on the disabled list with a hand injury.

And back to Bell, remember, he struggles MIGHTILY with southpaws and will face two lefties this week (Lester and Quintana). Hopefully, the Cubs can take advantage, and keep the throttle down on the Brewers.


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Michael Cerami

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