Gotta Take Care of Business: Cubs at Pirates, May 25-27, 2021

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Gotta Take Care of Business: Cubs at Pirates, May 25-27, 2021

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have already played the Pirates 9 times this season, and they’ll get three more against them this week (that’s 12 matchups before the end of May!). Normally, that many games against the Pirates can do wonders for your record, but so far, the Cubs (5-4) have managed to win just one more than they’ve lost.

With that in said, the Cubs have become a fundamentally different team here lately, with an offense that’s clicking and a bullpen that’s humming. Even a few members of the starting rotation has taken some important steps forward. So while I’m not exactly expecting the Cubs to sweep the Pirates, I do think we should *expect* them to take 2 out of 3. They have to take care of business. Because after that, the schedule starts getting *very* tough: Reds (3 games), Padres (3), Giants (4), Padres (3), Cardinals (3), and Mets (4) coming up in that order. Oh, and then it’s the Dodgers (4) and Brewers (3) to close out the month.

We’re Going Streaking

Since being swept by the Indians, the Chicago Cubs (24-22) have been on a roll, taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers, 3 of 4 from the Nationals, and 2 of 3 from the Cardinals, moving within 1.5 games of first place in the NL Central in the process. The Pittsburgh Pirates (18-28), by contrast, have nothing better than a four-game series split in that time. They’re 3-7 in their past ten games, losers of three in a row, and are tied for the second fewest wins in MLB.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Tuesday, May 25th at 5:35 CT on MARQ,  670 The Score
•   Wednesday, May 26th at 5:35 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Thursday, May 27th at 11:35 CT on MARQ, MLBN, 670 The Score

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Jake Arrieta (R) vs. TBD (R)
Game 2: Trevor Williams (R) vs. Wil Crowe (R)
Game 3: Kyle Hendricks (R) vs. Tyler Anderson (L)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Anthony Rizzo
•   2B – Nico Hoerner
•   3B – Matt Duffy/David Bote
•   SS – Javy Baez
•   LF – Joc Pederson
•   CF – Ian Happ
•   RF – Kris Bryant

Unavailable: Jonathan Holder, Trevor Megill, Shelby Miller, Alec Mills, Justin Steele, Rowan Wick, Austin Romine, Jason Heyward, Jake Marisnick

Pittsburgh Pirates

•   C – Jacob Stallings
•   1B – Will Craig
•   2B – Adam Frazier
•   3B – Erik Gonzalez
•   SS – Kevin Newman
•   LF – Ben Gamel
•   CF – Bryan Reynolds
•   RF – Gregory Polanco

Unavailable: Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Trevor Cahill, Austin Davis, Blake Cederlind, Jose Soriano, Colin Moran, Phillips Evans, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Ka’ai Tom

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: +16 (10th)
Pirates: -78 (30th)

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 4.60 (11th)
Pirates: 3.35 (29th)

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 4.28 (14th)
Pirates: 5.04 (24th)

Keep An Eye Out For …

Trevor Williams. The former Pirate has struggled lately, lasting 4.2, 2.0, 4.0, and 2.2 innings in each of his last four starts. And in two starts against his former team, he’s combined to throw just 7.1 IP with 15H, 7ER, 4 walks, and 9 strikeouts. If he doesn’t start turning things around very soon, I suspect someone else may get a shot at the rotation (then again, Alec Mills is already on the IL, so … maybe he bought himself some extra time).*

*Incorrectly stated that Keegan Thompson is on the IL. Apologies. He is not.

Injured Pirates. Pittsburgh is currently playing without Ka’ai Tom, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Colin Moran, and Phillip Evans on offense. Their best two hitters, then, are Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier. Frazier has been especially hot lately, slashing .408/.431/.571 (176 wRC+) over the last two weeks. Don’t let him beat you and you should navigate the Pirates lineup just fine.

Ian Happ is hotter than you think. Although he’s at just under 50 PAs, Happ has actually been the Cubs hottest hitter in May, slashing .349/.391/.791 (215 wRC+). His strikeout rate is still elevated during that stretch (28.3%), but a perfectly acceptable level for the overall production. Meanwhile, Kris Bryant (151 wRC+), Joc Pederson (137 wRC+), Anthony Rizzo (136 wRC+), Javy Baez (131 wRC+), Nico Hoerner (109 wRC+), Willson Contreras (107 wRC+), and Matt Duffy (106 wRC+) have all been above average this month.

The bullpen. The Cubs bullpen has basically been the best in baseball this month, and Brett lays it all out right here:

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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