Today the Pirates will face the Chicago Cubs for the sixth time this year. First pitch is scheduled for 2:20 PM, unless we are gifted with a long winded National Anthem singer once again. Jon Lester will open the game for the Cubs while Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the Pirates.
Cole is not having a great season to his standards, though he has pitched pretty effectively. He has a season ERA of 3.78, though that is mostly in part of one bad outing which, of course, was against the Cubs. There seems to be a pattern here with Pirate pitchers facing the Cubs. In that outing, he lasted only 4.2 innings while giving up six runs (five earned). When you eliminate that start, Cole’s ERA sits at a 2.87. He has also faced some to quality lineups in the Tigers, Rockies, Cardinals, and Cubs, so you can see he has been battle tested.
Jon Lester is having an extremely good start to his season, unlike his Cubs debut in 2015. This season, Lester is 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA. In the seven starts he has made this season, he has not allowed more than one run in five of those. Unlike Cole, he hasn’t faced many top offenses, but this is a $200 million pitcher we are talking about and there is a reason he is worth that. Lester has also had great success when facing the Pirates. In five career games, Lester holds a 1.56 ERA against the Buccos and will certainly have the confidence in this game to continue that trend. Lester struggles to maintain the running game have been well documented, and the Pirates currently are 2nd in the N.L. in stolen bases. With their ability to get on base, the running game is going to need to be a key in obtaining this victory. Even with these teams dominant offenses, with these two Aces pitching runs will come at a premium (so I say an hour before the game).
Andrew McCutchen is heading into this game with an eight game hit streak. Currently he has raised his batting average to a .261. If you believe that streak continuing will come easy today, Cutch has a career .125 batting average verse Lester. He has just 2 hits in 17 plate appearances, striking out four times and walking zero times. As a matter of fact, there aren’t too many Pirates that have sustained much success. David Freese has three hits in just nine at bats, while Josh Harrison is batting .286 in 14 at bats.
Today also marks the first time since his injury that Jung Ho Kang will play in his third straight game. It was made clear that the Pirates vision was to give him a day off every third game. I am not too sure why there is a change in that philosophy today unless Kang forced his way in the lineup to help get a victory in Chi-town. Also, Gregory Polanco will get a day off in favor of Sean Rodriguez in right. Rodriguez has faced Lester many times during his time in the AL East, so hopefully that familiarity will pay dividends today.
- Mercer SS
- McCutchen CF
- Freese 1B
- Marte LF
- Cervelli C
- Kang 3B
- Harrison 2B
- Rodriguez RF
- Cole P