Series #4: Pirates vs. the World Champs

Series Quick Look
Friday, April 14, 2:20PM
Saturday, April 15, 2:20PM

Sunday, April 16, 2:20PM
at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL


Fresh off of a World Series championship, the Chicago Cubs will face the 3-6 Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time in 2017. Over the past two season, the Cubs lead this series 25-12 and completely dominated the Pirates last year (14 wins to four losses). The Chicago own a team ERA of 3.70 last season verse the Pirates, while Pittsburgh owns a 5.62 verse the Cubs.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Pirates lead 1,261-1,198
Last matchup…Sept. 29, 2016, Pirates tied the Cubs 1-1.

About the Cubs:

As mentioned, the Chicago Cubs are coming off a season where they won the World Series. It took them 108 years to win it, which was recognized in the rings they received which held a total of 108 diamonds. Chicago is the early favorites to win the World Series as they were given 3-1 odds to do it again.

Not much has changed in this team’s dynamic. Almost all of the core is returning from the 2016 season. Kyle Schwarber is back and fully healthy after missing almost all of last season with a torn ACL. His presence will help alleviate the loss of Dexter Fowler who signed a long term deal with the Cardinals this offseason. Koji Uehara was signed this offseason and Wade Davis was brought in via trade to help sure up the bullpen that lost Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman.

The lineup looks as fierce as ever with the likes of Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez and Jason Heyward. This series will be a big test to the Pirates pitching to help keep runs off the scoreboard. These 6-3 Cubs have won 2-of-3 from the Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers to start their season. This three-game series with the Pirates is in the middle of a nine-game homestand, their first of 2017.


PROBABLES & NOTES: 

4/14: RHP Gerrit Cole (2016: 6.55 ERA/6.26 FIP, 161 FIP-) vs.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (6.00 ERA/5.82 FIP, 145 FIP-)

It hasn’t been an exciting start to the 2017 for Gerrit Cole. He has come into this season healthy, which is something he was not able to do last year, but his performance has not shown favorable results. It has been pretty easy to see why this has been the case. Cole has not done well mixing his pitches and has relied heavily on his fastball. The velocity has certainly been there for Cole this year, but at this level of the game a slew of 98 MPH fastballs isn’t going to blow by man people. If Cole can create a good mix of pitches into his arsenal, I fully expect to see the results closer to his 2015 season. The Pirates will face Kyle Hendricks who had an amazing season last year, but fueled with plenty of good luck. His ERA (2.13) was more than a full run better than his FIP (3.20). He benefitted greatly from some solid pitch framing that should hopefully normalize this year. Not taking away from his skill, as a 3.20 FIP is still pretty incredible, but hopefully Hendricks looks more like a human this year than Cy Young‘s favorite pitcher.

4/15: RHP Tyler Glasnow (27.00 ERA/10.78 FIP, 277 FIP-) vs.
RHP Jake Arrieta (2.08 ERA/2.68 FIP, 67 FIP-)

Tyler Glasnow did not look like a major league ready pitcher in his last start. Regardless if you feel he should be up here or not, the fact is he remains in the rotation and HAS to find some sort of control if he is going to provide this team any chance of a win this game. He will be facing Jake Arrieta, who has been another Pirates killer over the years. For his career, Arrieta is 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA in 15 starts while facing Pittsburgh. As successful as he’s been verse the Pirates, Pittsburgh seemed to finally get his number last season. In six starts last year, Arrieta was tagged with a 4.93 ERA. It still will take a big game from Glasnow, but there is some hope for the Pirates to continue getting to Arrieta for runs.

4/16: TBD (N/A ERA/N/A FIP, N/A FIP-) vs.
LHP Jon Lester (1.64 ERA/1.26 FIP, 31 FIP-)

At this time there is no pitcher announced for Pittsburgh. One could assume it will be Jameson Taillon who last faced the Reds on April 11. If it does happen to be Jameson Taillon, he has pitched rather well this season even when he hasn’t been sharp. He owns a 1.38 ERA in two starts. At this moment, he certainly appears to be the most consistent starter in this rotation. Jon Lester will be the pitcher facing the Pirates in this game. The big lefty also had an outstanding season last year, and much like Hendricks it was a bit lucky. His ERA (2.44) was almost a full run lower than his FIP (3.41) and his struggles with the run game is well documented. He owns a 2.68 ERA in 50.1 innings.


TV/RADIO INFO: 
TV (Friday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, WGN, & MLB Network.
TV (Saturday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh & CSN-C.
TV (Sunday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh & WGN.
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7

ON THE SHELF: 

Pittsburgh:
Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.

Chicago:
Brian Deunsing (P): 10 Day DL (April 6) – Lower back spasms

MVPirates Killer
At age 25, Kris Bryant is coming off of a World Series victory, winning the MVP, and was voted Rookie Of the Year the previous season. As an accomplished player this early, he has wrecked havoc against the Pirates in his young career. In 161 plate appearances, Bryant owns a .372/.484/.603/.1.088 slash with 12 doubles, six home runs and two stolen bases. As potent as this lineup is top to bottom, keep a strong focus on Bryant this series.

EVERYONE, FREESE!
Let’s just keep this note here from the last series. Though there will only be one lefty facing the Pirates, Freese has been the only bright spot in this lineup. With just 29 plate appearances this season, he owns a .381 batting average, cracked two home runs, and has walked eight times compared to striking out just three times. It’s possible to see him in the lineup quite a bit this series by solely playing the hot hand in this lineup.

THE RUNNING GAME
We mentioned that Lester has had many issues controlling the running game. He literally will not throw the ball to first base it appears. The Pirates have had plenty of experience facing him and should try to run all over him. Here is the kicker, the Pirates have not looked good in this area at this point. They have stolen four bases while being thrown out six times. On top of that, Willson Contreras has thrown out 36% of base stealers in his young major league career. Pittsburgh is going to test the run game this series, but they must be smarter.

NEXT UP:
The Pirates will extend their road trip to St. Louis as they play the Cardinals for a three-game series from April 17-19.

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