Joc Pederson leads off in left, followed by Kris Bryant in right, Javy Báez at short, and Anthony Rizzo at first. Ian Happ is in center, Nico Hoerner is at second, David Bote is at third, and PJ Higgins is catching.
Has Jake Arrieta ever pitched a big game in Pittsburgh? This one doesn’t have high stakes and the Pirates aren’t a good team, but The Snake has flashed some of the same brilliance that led him to the Cy Young in 2015. That hasn’t necessarily been the case lately, though, as he’s allowed more homers (6) than he’s notched strikeouts (5) over the last three games. The cutter has really failed him, so that pitch needs to be better in this one.
Making his 2021 debut for the short-handed Pirates is burly 27-year-old righty Cody Ponce. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, I’m at least mildly surprised this guy isn’t pitching for the Brewers. Wait, I see now that he was actually drafted by Milwaukee and spend several years in their system, so now it all makes sense.
Ponce was solid in five games last year, posting a 3.18 ERA over 17 innings. However, his 6.66 FIP and five homers allowed tell a slightly different story. A 94 mph fastball is his go-to weapon, but the curve is his best offering on a per-pitch basis. His cutter isn’t nearly as effective and was responsible for a lot of the damage Ponce allowed in 2020.
He actually made his MLB debut against the Cubs on August 2 last season, facing two batters in a Pirate loss. Ponce started the 11th inning with ghost runner Contreras on second and got Rizzo to ground out before giving up a walk-off single to Javy.
There’s not much else to analyze about this one, really. The Cubs are playing well and the Pirates were not a very good team before they started losing all kinds of players to injuries. This should be a win and anything short of taking two of three in this series will be a disappointment.
First pitch is set for 5:35pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 25, 2021