The Cubs have played the Pirates six times so far this season and they are 5-1 against them. They’ve outscored them 38-13 in those games, averaging over 6 runs per game. But, evidently, that’s not good enough. At least that’s what Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole thinks — we wrote about it here in more detail.
There’s no doubt the Cubs have started red-hot to begin the season, and there’s even less doubt about the Cubs stifling hold on the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this year. There’s a clear animosity among the Pirates towards the Cubs and, after being owned by the Cubs so far, it’s not hard to understand why.
Much of the negativity seems to come directly from their manager, Clint Hurdle. He constantly insists on purposely throwing at Cubs’ hitters and doing just about anything to try and disrupt the flow of the game. Simply put, he’s a….that could go anywhere, but you get my point.
The Cubs pitching is looking close to elite so far this season. They’ve stepped up to almost every challenge and have played much better than most pundits thought. They’re a big part of the reason the Cubs have a League best record of 27-9.
This series continued to trend in the right direction for Cubs pitching. Combined they allowed eight runs — seven earned — over twenty-seven innings for a 2.33 ERA. That improves the team ERA for the year to a League-leading 2.64.
The Cubs starting pitching, with a record of 24-6 and a League-leading 2.24 ERA, continued to smother opposing batters. Every starter produced a Quality Start in their game and, in total, gave up only five runs — four earned — and struck out 28 batters.
The bullpen had a little harder time getting settled in the three-game set — they’ve been good, with a 3.44 YTD ERA, but not great. Their ERA is currently 14th in the Majors and their 4.10 FIP is 23rd. They’ve been solid in spots but are definitely the most inconsistent part of a Cubs’ team that has been terrorizing the league.
In this series, the bullpen gave up three runs on six hits and six walks for a 4.76 ERA. Trevor Cahill gave up a ninth inning two-run home run to Andrew McCutchen in the Cubs 9-4 win on Friday, so no harm no foul for him.
Hector Rondon’s run, a Jung Ho Kang home run in the top of the ninth inning, hurt more. It turned out to be the game-winning run after the Cubs scored one run in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, following a great performance from Jon Lester, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up the game’s first hit and first run in the same inning.
Here are the pitching totals for the series:
The Cubs hit right at their season average of .263 and were slightly below their season average for on-base percentage which sits at a League-leading .365. Overall, the offense was clicking and getting key hits with runners on base.
The only game that didn’t go well was Sunday’s game in which Pirates pitcher, Gerrit Cole threw a gem. In that game, as a team, the Cubs were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. In the first two games combined, the Cubs went 7-for-15 with RISP. That led to the Cubs outscoring the Pirates 17-6 in those two games, and 18-8 overall in the series.
Jason Heyward, after all the talk about his ‘slump’, was great offensively (and defensively too, but at this point that’s just a given) hitting .417 (5-for-12) with three walks and three runs. I’d expect more output like this to come from Heyward as he is bound to get that average, currently standing at .236, much closer to his .293 average in 2015 with ‘you know who.’
Addison Russell is another player that is really starting to pick it up too. He’s batting .349/.440/.628 over his the last two weeks, along with two home runs, seven runs and thirteen RBIs. He went 3-for-11 against the Pirates adding two runs and five RBIs attributable entirely to his two home runs. He hit for power in the spring so we’re not surprised to see him starting to hit for power now.
Here are the hitting totals:
|Tommy La Stella||2||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000|
On the pitching side, it’s a tough one. I have to decide between Jon Lester and Jason Hammel. Both pitched great but the nod has to go to Lester, who had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning and gave up only one run on two hits. It’s weird because he didn’t get the win, like Hammel did, but by allowing only two hits he really deserved to win and on almost any other day the Cubs, with an average of 5.94 runs scored per game, would’ve won him the game
Offensively, my MVP is Addison Russell who, as we’ve already mentioned, had two monster home runs in the series to help lead the Cubs to wins in both of those games.
The Cubs keep putting relentless pressure on Clint Hurdle and the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team. Of course they don’t like it, who would? But barring a season-best pitching performance from Gerrit Cole, the Pirates keep having difficulty culminating any type of sustained success against the League-leading (you’ll notice a recurring theme with that term) Chicago Cubs. They meet again in Chicago – June 17-19, should be fun.