Series Preview: Cubs vs. Pirates
Tonight, the division leading Cubs (10-9) begin a three game series against the fourth place Pittsburgh Pirates (8-10) at PNC Park. The boys in blue are still scuffling a tad. Our starting pitching has not shown the same zip from last year. Jake Arietta and Kyle Hendricks, in particular, have lost some velocity from last season, though the former looked a little sharper in Cincinnati on Saturday. Our offensive stars are not hitting on all cylinders, with Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist producing substantially less than expected so far. And our relief corps, with the important exception of Wade Davis, still has not found its rhythm.
Still, the Cubs are in first place and will have the opportunity this week to avenge the three game sweep that the Pirates put on them in Wrigley three series ago. The Pirates, of course, will be without their best player, Starlin Marte. This past weekend, Marte began serving an 80 game suspension for violating the league’s rules regarding the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. Even without Marte, the Pirates are still dangerous. They just took two of three from the Yankees. Watch out for former MVP Lawrence McCutcheon, who looks to be regaining a bit of his old form.
The pitching match up tonight is Cubs left hander Brett Anderson (1-0, 4.40 ERA) vs Pirates righty Chad Kuhl (1-1, 2.60). Kuhl features an effective sinker that appears to NL hitters to be traveling at about 94 mph. Average in the league is about 92 mph.
As of this writing, the pitchers for the games on Tuesday and Wednesday have not been announced, but unless Joe Maddon surprises us, Hendricks will pitch for the Cubs on Tuesday and Jon Lester will go on Wednesday. I like our chances to take at least two games of this three game set.
As with every visit to PNC Park, take some time during this series to notice what a beautiful ball park it is. PNC shows well on television too. Since re-inventing itself a few decades ago, Pittsburgh is a city with a lot to offer and PNC measures up to the best of the rest of the city. The only thing about it that is not first rate is the name. In the late 90s, PNC Bank purchased the rights for 20 years at about $1.5 million per year. That deal is about to expire. I, for one, am rooting for the next name to have a little more pizzazz. How about Forbes Field? Pretty sure that name is available.