Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, April 9 - 12, 2018

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Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, April 9 – 12, 2018

Chicago Cubs

The Cubbies are coming home!

This week, the Chicago Cubs will host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field for three games over four days. I will be attending all three of those games, including the home opener tomorrow with Brett and Luis. We’ll likely be in our usual spot out in the right field bleachers, so come say hi (I’ll be the one eating a Hot Doug’s dog).

This is a three-game series, but it’s spread over four days, with an off-day on Tuesday. So soak it in tomorrow and pull for a Cubs win, because an off-day after an afternoon loss feels like a week.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (5-4) won each of the last two games in Milwaukee, grabbing their first series win of the season. They come into this home series with their bullpen rocking, their starters rebounding, and their offense coming alive.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (7-2), however, are one of the hottest teams in baseball … but to be fair six of their seven wins came against the Tigers and Reds, and their seventh came against the Twins, so it’s not as though they’re playing the toughest teams. They are in first place in the NL Central, though, so the Cubs can move into first with a sweep. And then they can stay there.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

  • Monday, April 9 at 2:20 CT on ABC-7, MLBN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, April 11 at 7:05 on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Thursday, April 12 at 1:20 on NBC Sports Chicago, MLBN (out-of-market only), 670 The Score

Chicago Cubs

Probable Pitchers:

  • Tyler Chatwood (1.50 ERA, 4.74 FIP; 0.67 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (2.89 ERA, 2.96 FIP; 2.00 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (4.09 ERA, 5.71 FIP; 1.50 K/BB)

Active Depth Chart:

  • C – Willson Contreras
  • 1B – Anthony Rizzo*
  • 2B – Javy Baez/Ben Zobrist
  • 3B – Kris Bryant
  • SS – Addison Russell
  • LF – Kyle Schwarber
  • CF – Ian Happ/Albert Almora/Jason Heyward
  • RF – Jason Heyward/Ben Zobrist

*Anthony Rizzo has missed three straight games with a tight/sore lower back. We’ll see if he’s back for the home opener tomorrow. If not, you might expect to see more of Victor Caratini.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Probable Pitchers:

  • Ivan Nova (6.10 ERA, 4.13 FIP; 1.75 K/BB)
  • Steven Brault (1.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP; 1.40 K/BB)
  • Trevor Williams (1.59 ERA, 3.78 FIP; 0.83 K/BB)

Active Depth Chart:

  • C – Francisco Cervelli
  • 1B – Josh Bell
  • 2B – Josh Harrison
  • 3B – Colin Moran
  • SS – Jordy Mercer
  • LF – Corey Dickerson
  • CF – Starling Marte
  • RF – Gregory Polanco

Keep an Eye Out For …

Cubs Pitcher: Tyler Chatwood had a good first start against the Reds results-wise, but did have some scary peripherals. For example, he walked (6) more batters than he struck out (4), and for another, he allowed a 40% fly ball rate. To be fair, he also got a 53.3% ground ball rate and 16.7% infield fly ball rate, but still. When the wind starts blowing out in the summer months at Wrigley, he’ll need to keep it on the ground. To leave it on a positive note, Chatwood allowed just a 17.7% hard-contact rate last time out with a 29.4% soft-contact rate. If he repeats that part, he should be just fine.

Cubs Player: Kris Bryant is currently one of the hottest hitters in baseball – his 210 wRC+ is 16th best in MLB – and he’s tied for the third most WAR overall (0.7). And perhaps most impressively, this:

BONUS: It feels wrong not to acknowledge what Ben Zobrist is doing at the plate this season: .360/.448/.520 (165 wRC+).

Pirates Pitcher: Felipe Rivero has been closing out games for the Pirates this season, and has three saves and a 41.2% strikeout rate already. HOWEVA, that strikeout rate is paired with a hefty 17.7% walk rate. That’s bordering on the sort of walk rate you cannot get by with even when you have an elite strikeout rate like Rivero. And when a patient team like the Cubs comes along, the whole system can be further stressed. Of course, to counter: Rivero has given up exactly no hard-contact yet this season, so let’s just hope the Cubs go into the late-innings with a lead.

Pirates PlayerGregory Polanco has been the Bucs hottest hitter so far, slashing .280/.441/.680, with a walk rate (22.9%) higher than his strikeout rate (17.1%). In four seasons with the Pirates, Polanco hasn’t yet broken out at the plate the way many think he can/should, so it’ll be interesting to see if this is a mirage, or his elite/career-year finally showing up.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami