The previous series against the Brewers was a perfect microcosm of the entire 2018 campaign so far for the Cubs. After dropping the first game in blowout fashion to the Brewers, the Cubs came back and powered their way to a decisive victory to split the series They leave Chicago with a three-game lead over the beer craftsmen in the NL Central and currently sport a very nice 69-50 record.
Their first destination on this six-game road trip is Pittsburgh, where they will play four games against the Pirates at PNC Park. In the 12 games since the Cubs last played against this team, the Buccos have gone 5-7 against the Cardinals, Rockies, Giants, and Twins.
The Pirates’ scheduled starters have been pretty dominant against the Cubs this year. Ivan Nova has won both of his games against Chicago, sporting a 2.84 ERA and limiting the Cubs to a .671 OPS. Trevor Williams (6 IP, 1.50 ERA), Joe Musgrove (7 IP; 1.29 ERA), and Jameson Taillon (6.2 IP; 4.05 ERA) beat the Cubs in their only starts against Chicago this year, though the latter did allow the Cubs to pound him a little.
The Pirates’ bats have not been too great this year, sporting a 96 wRC+ and ranking 16th in fWAR. There have been a few Bucs who have hit the Cubs well this year, however. Francisco Cervelli is slashing a ridiculous .393/.433/.786 in 30 plate appearances. Adam Frazier has posted a .364/.462/.636 slash, though it’s only in 13 plate appearances.
In his first year of substantial playing time, Colin Moran is doing good work at the plate against the Cubs, slashing .364/.462/.409 in 26 plate appearances. Finally, we have Corey Dickerson, who’s hitting .320/.370/.480 in 27 plate appearances and who has also done good work with his glove against the Cubs.
I’m fairly optimistic about the Cubs’ chances in this series. If Jon Lester can return to form and pitch well on Thursday, Chicago should win that game. Then they’ve got Cole Hamels on the mound on Friday. I am not too sure about Saturday, but Mike Montgomery can get it done if he keeps the ball on the ground.
The outcome of Sunday’s contest will depend heavily on how Jose Quintana pitches. If he can get it together, particularly with the curveball, the Cubs have a chance. If not, then the last game against the Pirates will likely be a loss. All in all, I see the Cubs winning at least two of these games.
Game and Broadcast Info
- Thursday, August 16 at 6:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Friday, August 17 at 6:05 CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Saturday, August 18 at 6:05 CT on WGN
- Sunday, August 19 at 12:35 CT on ABC-7
What to Watch For
- Hamels has looked phenomenal since he came to Chicago. In his three starts with the Cubs he has gone 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA, and went toe-to-toe with Max Scherzer on Sunday night. Hamels has struck out 20 while walking only four men and allowing 11 hits. He pitched very well against Pittsburgh in his Cubs debut good; look for him to continue his great performance and dominate the Pirates yet again.
- The offense as a whole has been something of an enigma so far in the second half. They will, for whatever reason, go days without providing much run support and then explode for 5+ runs on a single day, and then revert back to not scoring many runs. In order for the Cubs to win this series, they will have to get men on a base and then drive them in. Easy enough, right?
- Neither Willson Contreras nor Addison Russell has had an extra base hit in the past two weeks. Russell’s struggles at the plate have been highlighted extensively, at least on my Twitter timeline. Contreras (.152/.243/.152, -0.2 fWAR over the last two weeks) has been the worst hitter on the team recently. If either of these two can provide some semblance of offense, the Cubs should be in good shape this series.