Photo: Ron Cogswell
Chicago Cubs (32-33) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (30-36)
Time: Friday – 7:05
Following a day off, the Pirates will begin an important 10 game stretch against the underachieving Chicago Cubs. After that, they will go to Milwaukee for four games, and then head to St. Louis for three. Good Pirates baseball could catapult them to first in the division, while bad Pirates baseball could have them quickly becoming sellers.
For game one, the Pirates will get to face Eddie Butler. Butler began his career with the Rockies, but after posting a 6.50 ERA over 159.1 innings, the Rockies decided to move on. The Cubs came into the season lacking pitching depth, so they decided to take a gamble on the 26 year old. This season, Butler has struggled mightily with left handed hitters. The Pirates will only use 3 against him in tonights lineup: Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, and Gregory Polanco. So far this season, Butler has pitched well against righties (18 IP). But over his career, his results have been well below average (107.2 IP).
While Tyler Glasnow pitched poorly enough to earn a demotion, Trevor Williams pitched well enough to earn a spot in the rotation. His last start was his worst since his first start of the season. The Cubs offense hasn’t been as good as it was in 2016, but they could bounce back at any moment. Hopefully Trevor can out pitch Butler in this one.
The Pirates are +102 in this one, and the game is expected to be high scoring with a run total of 9.5.
Time: Saturday– 8:15
Jake Arrieta has struggled this season. For a guy in his contract year, the following is very bad:
Ivan Nova has continued to pitch well. Unlike above, the following is good:
Time: Sunday – 1:35
The Cubs will roll out a 38 year old John Lackey in the series finale. Lackey, like the rest of the Cubs, has struggled. He has an ERA above 5, and a FIP to match. He has a 21.8% HR/FB, which certainly does not seem sustainable. So, his xFIP of 4.30 appears to be more believable than his ERA and FIP. Still, Lackey hasn’t given up much soft contact this year. This is the best matchup of the series for the Pirates, so hopefully the Pirates can take advantage of it. Even though I don’t really buy into batter vs pitcher numbers too much, Francisco Cervelli does have a .385 AVG against Lackey with a home run in 13 AB’s.
Jameson Taillon tossed 5 shutout innings against the red hot Rockies in his first game back. While the Cubs have been better lately, they haven’t been nearly as scary as they were last year. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have still been great, but Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist have all been having down years. This will be a big game for the Pirates mentally, as a loss here could easily mean a lost series before heading to Milwaukee for another four very important games.
The Pirates are expected to lose this series, as they are +125 underdogs on Bovada. However, this series could certainly be won. And if it won, the Cubs playoffs odds will drop even more despite already dropping 11.9% over the last 7 days according to Baseball Prospectus.