Well, that was a fun series against the Reds. There was a come-from-behind victory in the first game, an offensive explosion in the second game, and a game the Cubs would like to forget. Taking two out of three in the last two series is a great way to bounce back after being swept. The road trip continues as the Cubs travel to Pittsburgh to get some sweet revenge against the Bucs for defeating the World Champions at Wrigley.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Monday, April 24 at 6:05 CST on ESPN; WGN (out of market only)
Tuesday, April 25 at 6:05 CST on WGN
Wednesday, April 26 at 6:05 CST on CSN
What to Watch For
During the previous series against the Pirates, the Cubs starters had issues keeping the ball in the strike zone and gave up several early runs. The pitching staff performed poorly as a whole, with the bullpen allowing too many baserunners to score and leading to questions about its long-term efficacy. Look for the pitchers to not only be more precise with their pitches, but also to do a better job of stranding the opposition.
Kyle Hendricks has had a rough go of it so far this season, due primarily to his inability to control his pitches. His 10.1 percent walk rate so far this year far exceeds last year’s 5.9 percent mark. He is also striking out batters at a lower rate this year (18.8 to 22.8 percent), allowing harder contact (40.8 percent hard contact this year vs 25.8 percent in 2016), and is giving up one home run for approximately every four fly balls opposing batters hit.
Any one of those might be palatable on its own, but all of that combined is a recipe for disaster. It just shows how easy it is for a guy like Hendricks to get smacked around if the pinpoint control’s not there. If he’s able to regain his accuracy he should be able to keep the Pirates hitters off balance with his assortment of nasty pitches. If not, I would expect to see the ball flying off of the Pirates hitters’ bats.
It’s not just the pitching that was the issue in the previous series against the Bucs, either. The offense did not take advantage of the opportunities they had with not only men on base, and the Cubs went 7-for-29 (.241) with runners in scoring position. Given that the Cubs lost by one, two, and five runs in that series, a few more clutch hits could have changed how we discussed their performance. Look for the offense to do a better job of driving baserunners in this series.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Give up fewer runs, score more runs. Boom.