The Pirates are coming to town this week, and I’m headed to the game tonight. If you happen to see me at Wrigley, as always, say hi. No bleachers for me tonight, though, as I’ll be sitting with the fancy people in the grandstand (sitting in the bleachers is kind of like living beyond the wall with the free folk). [Brett: I just want to emphasize that Michael is typing these things, not me.]
After these three against the Pirates, the Cubs will host the Braves for four straight at Wrigley starting Thursday, before heading out onto the road to take on the Pirates once again – this time in Pittsburgh – on Monday. There are still 14 more games before an off-day is coming, so the Cubs will have to bear down for this stretch. Even though it’s against weaker teams, it can still be tough.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (69-60) just lost two out of three to the Phillies, which, sigh. They still have a 2.0 game lead over the Brewers in the NL Centra,l though. Perhaps they can take advantage of a persistently weak schedule from here on out.
The Pittsburgh Pirates (63-68) are seven games out of first place in the NL Central, but have seven games against the Cubs over the next two weeks. If they can swing enough in their favor, they may be able to inch back into this race quite seriously. This is not a nothing-series.
Game Times and Broadcasts
Location: Wrigley Field
- Monday, August 28 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, August 29 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C+, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, August 30 at 7:05 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.
- Mike Montgomery (3.43 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 4.34 xFIP; 1.76 K/BB) – L
- Jake Arrieta (3.49 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 4.03 xFIP; 2.98 K/BB) – R
- Jose Quintana (4.49 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 3.97 xFIP; 2.84 K/BB) – L
- Jon Jay, CF
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Alex Avila, C
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, SS
- Trevor Williams (4.40 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.56 xFIP; 2.22 K/BB) – R
- Chad Kuhl (4.52 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 4.62 xFIP; 1.90 K/BB) – R
- Ivan Nova (3.97 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 4.12 xFIP; 4.04 K/BB) – R
- Starling Marte, LF
- Adam Frazier, 2B
- Andrew McCutchen, CF
- Josh Bell, 1B
- Josh Harrison, 3B
- John Jason, RF
- Sean Rodriguez, SS
- Elias Diaz, C
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
Jose Quintana did not do well in his last start against the Phillies, and most of his numbers with the Cubs aren’t great, especially on the surface: 4.50 ERA. But one thing I’m thrilled about is his 27.3 K% and 8.8 BB%. Both numbers were worse before coming to the Cubs, so it’s nice to see some improvement there (even if that first start – 12Ks, 0BB – may be carrying much of the weight).
Quintana’s ground ball rate has also improved from 42.9% with the White Sox this season to 47.1% with the Cubs, and he’s also cut down on his hard-hit rate since switching teams. It’s not all clicking right now, but the pieces are still there. He’ll bounce back.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Anthony Rizzo is a monster.
In the second half of the season, he’s got a .309/.413/.559 slash line with ten homers, eight doubles, and three stolen bases (LOL). And when you take a totally arbitrary cutoff point of his last 59 plate appearances, you get the video game slash line: .420/.508/.760. He’s a beast and is hitting everything in sight.
Here’s another arbitrary (but, this point, significant) cutoff: In Kris Bryant’s last 117 plate appearances dating back to the end of July, he’s slashing .354/.453/.615. That’s good for a 176 wRC+.
Given the way these two have been swinging it (plus Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber’s second half resurgences), I can only dream about the day that Willson Contreras returns to this lineup.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitching
That the Cubs are missing both Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon this week pretty fortunate. After all, Taillon’s 3.56 FIP leads the staff, as does his 2.2 fWAR, and Gerrit Cole is perpetually capable of tossing a gem. He just is. How many times has he done it to the Cubs?
Instead, the Cubs will get Ivan Nova, who is, admittedly, leading the Pirates in ERA, but feels much more beatable. For one thing, Nova’s collected just a 15.8% strikeout rate this season, which bodes well for a strikeout prone team like the Cubs. He has been pretty stingy on free passes, though, so we’ll probably see a lot of balls in play this week. Hopefully, the BABIP gods show mercy on us.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Offense
Andrew McCutchen and Josh Bell are the bats to fear this week at Wrigley Field, but they are both at different places in their overall solid seasons.
The former, for example, has actually been one notch below average since the All-Star break (99 wRC+), while the latter is slashing .324/.393/.549 (144 wRC+) with six homers and a .225 ISO. But Bell is not just displaying massive amounts of power, he’s doing so with a 14.7% K-rate here in the second half of the season. That’s impressive.
With that said, he does better from the left-side of the plate, where he’ll get few chances this series with both Mike Montgomery (L) and Jose Quintana (L) scheduled to pitch. So that’s another tiny break. Let’s see if it pays off.