Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, May 16 - May 18, 2022

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Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, May 16 – May 18, 2022

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have done some good work lately, taking two of three from two pretty good NL West teams (the Padres and Diamondbacks). The schedule remains relatively “light” for the next two weeks, but the White Sox-Brewers-Cardinals stretch looms at the end of the month and into June. Given the timing of the season – and the likelihood of another mid-season sell-off, now is the time to go on a run, if ever.

Remember, though, the Cubs are 2-4 against the Pirates this season, and Pittsburgh has two more wins and one fewer loss than the Cubs. So I wouldn’t start counting wins too soon. Also of note, the Pirates have been much better against left-handed pitching this season, and they’ll get two Cubs lefties (Miley and Smyly) this week.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (13-20) have won back-to-back series, but they’re still just 5-7 in May and haven’t won three games in a row all year. Still a lot of ground to make up.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (15-19) just split a series with the Reds after taking two of three from the … checks notes … Los Angeles Dodgers? Okay. I see you, Pittsburgh. I guess it’s not just the Cubs, then.

Hot or Not and What to Watch

Seiya Suzuki hasn’t gone on another hot streak just yet, but he is hitting the ball very hard in May (93.0 MPH average exit velocity) and is definitely making progress. The Cubs right fielder has seven hits this month, four of which went for extra bases. He hasn’t homered since April 17, but I think his next long ball is coming soon.

Rafael Ortega has made some noise lately, with six hits (including two 2Bs and a homer) in his last 24 plate appearances. He’s struck out just 12.5% of the time during that stretch and is creeping towards a league-average bat for the year despite a horrendous start to the season.

Willson Contreras has a 150 wRC+ on the season, tied with Anthony Rizzo and Freddie Freeman. He’s been especially hot in May, slashing .333/.476/.576 (198 wRC+).

Cubs reliever Scott Effross has allowed just two earned runs in 15.0 innings this season, with a staggering 17 strikeouts to just 1 walk ratio. And on top of that, the contact has been garbage: 84.7 MPH average EV, 48.8 GB%, 4.8 barrel%.

Ben Gamel (193 wRC+) and Daniel Vogelbach (140 wRC+) are the hot Pirates hitters right now, but Vogelbach has been horrible against left-handed pitching this season and he’ll get two left-handed starters against the Cubs this week. Gamel, who’s also a lefty, actually has reverse splits (meaning he’s been better against LHP than RHP) this year.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Monday, May 16 at 6:40 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score,
•   Tuesday, May 17 at 6:40 CT on MARQ, 670 The Score
•   Wednesday, May 18 at 6:40 CT on YouTube, 670 The Score

Pitching Probables

Game 1: Wade Miley (L) vs. TBD
Game 2: TBD vs. J.T. Brubaker (R)
Game 3: Drew Smyly (L) vs. Mitch Kller (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Alfonso Rivas
•   2B – Jonathan Villar
•   3B – Patrick Wisdom
•   SS – Andrelton Simmons
•   LF – Ian Happ
•   CF – Rafael Ortega
•   RF – Seiya Suzuki
•   DH – Frank Schwindel

Unavailable: Marcus Stroman, David Robertson, Alec Mills, Clint Frazier, Ethan Roberts, Michael Hermosillo, Nick Madrigal, Nico Hoerner, Sean Newcomb, David Bote, Adbert Alzolay, Brad Wieck, Codi Heuer

Pittsburgh Pirates

•   C – Michael Perez
•   1B – Yoshi Tsutsugo
•   2B – Josh VanMeter
•   3B – Ke’Bryan Hayes
•   SS – Rodolpho Castro
•   LF – Ben Gamel
•   CF – Bryan Reynolds
•   RF – Jack Suwinski
•   DH – Daniel Vogelbach

Unavailable: Luis Oviedo, Kevin Newman, Jake Marisnick, Nick Mears, Blake Cederlind, Greg Allen, Roberto Perez

By the Numbers:

Run Differential:
Cubs: -11
Pirates: -56

Runs Scored Per Game:
Cubs: 3.94
Pirates: 3.50

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Cubs: 4.27
Pirates: 5.15

Author: Michael Cerami

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