Oh, boy! Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Chicago Cubs at 2:20 PM in Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh (18-16) has lost all four games the the Cubs (26-8) this season, and now will face arguably the best pitcher in baseball for their fifth game.
The article could go on about how great Arrieta has been over the past few years, but lets condense it to this. Arrieta has compiled a 1.66 ERA since the beginning of last season which has totaled 277 innings. What is even more impressive is the fact that if you include last years playoff game, Arrieta has an ERA of 0.52 when facing the Buccos. In case you live under a rock, that is not good.
If there is a glimpse of hope to hang onto, Arrieta is coming off of his worst start of the year where he allowed six hits and four walks in 5 innings while giving up three runs (two earned). The Pirates looked as if they were going to get to Jake during their first game this year. Pittsburgh registered back to back walks to open the game, however they were only able to manage two other baserunners the remaining time Arrieta was on the mound and failed to score any runs.
Jeff Locke will be handed the challenge to shut down the Cubs in hopes of pulling out a victory. Surprisingly, Locke has been probably the most consistent pitcher the Pirates have had this year. He is coming off of three quality starts where he has totaled a 2.84 ERA in that time. Also, if you take away the San Diego game where he imploded, Locke would hold a 2.73 ERA in five total starts. What has really been helping Jeff Locke is the fact that his ground ball rate has really increased this season. Inducing almost 60% of the balls in the dirt, Locke has been able to limit the “big inning” that has plagued him time and time again. He has found himself working out of many jams and help put the Pirates in a position to win.
Andrew McCutchen is coming into this game with a seven game hit streak. In that time, he has batted .363 with three doubles, two home runs, and six runs. It appears safe to say that Cutch is finally heating up. Since that three bomb game against Colorado, Cutch has hit .352 with six home runs and raising hit batting average by almost 50 points.
As Cutch is beginning to heat up, nobody around his seems to be cooling down. Starling Marte still leads the team in average with a .338 which also ranks 7th in the N.L. He also leads the N.L. in steals, is 4th in hits, 2nd in doubles, and as you could guess he leads in the ol’ HBP category with 7. The team, in fact, still leads the N.L. in batting average (.279).
The key to today’s game will be to attack Arrieta early and try to muster some hits against him. Oh, and the Pirates will need to shut down that amazing offense as well by limiting the amount of home runs that have a great chance to carry out of Wrigley. It will be no easy task, but we all will be watching it today in hopes that it can be done.