Take Advantage of Every Opportunity: Cubs at Pirates, April 8-11, 2021

This week, the Chicago Cubs are headed out on the road for their first and second series away from Wrigley, though they’ll face the same two teams they met at home to start the year (the Pirates and Brewers, in that order). As a matter of fact, the first two games of this series against Pittsburgh will be an exact rematch of the last two games in their previous series against the Pirates, both of which were taken by Chicago.

The third game, by contrast, will feature a REVENGE matchup of sorts, with Trevor Williams making his first start against his former team. And if it goes half as well as his first game as a Cub, I think we’ll all be over the moon. The Cubs need to win as many early games as possible if they want to keep the band together, so hopefully they take advantage of another winnable set of matchups against one of the weakest teams in MLB.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (3-3) won their first series of the season against these very Pirates, but dropped their second series of the year against the Brewers to move to .500. The Reds (5-1), Cardinals (4-2), and Brewers (3-3) are keeping things expectedly close in the NL Central so far.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (1-5) are tied with the A’s (1-6), Marlins (1-5), Nationals (1-2), and Mets (1-2) among teams with just one win this season. Although, a couple of their peers have obviously had far fewer opportunities to bank wins, so it’s not exactly apples-to-apples. Needless to say, they’ve been expectedly bad and the Cubs must find a way to take advantage.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Thursday, April 8th at 12:35 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Saturday, April 10th at 5:35 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Sunday, April 11 at 12:05 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Jake Arrieta (R) v. Tyler Anderson (L)
Game 2: Zach Davies (R) v. Mitch Keller (R)
Game 3: Trevor Williams (R) v. JT Brubaker (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Anthony Rizzo
•   2B – David Bote
•   3B – Kris Bryant
•   SS – Javy Baez
•   LF – Joc Pederson
•   CF – Ian Happ
•   RF – Jason Heyward

Unavailable: Rowan Wick, Jonathan Holder, Tyson Miller, Austin Romine.

Pittsburgh Pirates

•   C – Jacob Stallings
•   1B – Colin Moran
•   2B – Adam Frazier
•   3B – Ke’Bryan Hayes(?)
•   SS – Kevin Newman
•   LF – Bryan Reynolds
•   CF – Anthony Alford
•   RF – Gregory Polanco

Unavailable: Steven Brault, Cody Ponce, Austin Davis, Blake Cederlind, Jose Soriano, Ke’Bryan Hayes

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: 1 (14th)
Pirates: -18 (29th)

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 3.40 (24th)
Pirates: 2.60 (28th)

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 3.20 (5th)
Pirates: 6.20 (26th)

Keep An Eye Out For …

The Cubs bullpen. The Cubs ‘pen has been on fire to start the season (2.70 ERA), particularly in the ground ball department, where they’re leading the league with a 60.4 GB%. With that said, Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Chafin can’t be used every time out, and Alec Mills is likely still finding his bullpen legs beneath him. The rest of the gang will have to figure things out, especially in terms of their walk rate (12.6%), which has been far too high to start the year.

The Cubs offense. There’s honestly not much I can say here. The Cubs offense is dead last in batting average (.124) in large part because they are among the league leaders in soft-hit rate and almost dead last in line drive rate. Their BABIP will improve, if only by luck alone, but there’s a reason they’ve been one of the worst offenses in the league and they’ll have to find a way to improve, especially against a team like the Pirates.

written by

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

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