Tonight the Pirates (45-42) will go out to face the Chicago Cubs for their second game of the three game series before heading into the All Star Break. Pittsburgh has been hot of late as they’ve won 11 in their last 14 games, whereas Chicago (52-34) has been slumping. In the Cubs last nine games they have only won one game and in their last 19, they’ve won a mere five games. This series is proving to be a very meaningful one though it’s only in July as the Pirates have a chance to make up a lot of ground in the standing.
With the Pirates now just 7.5 games behind the Cubs, Chad Kuhl will face Jon Lester tonight for another tough pitching matchup for the Pirates. Lester, though coming off of the worst start since July 22, 2012 where he gave up 11 earned runs, has had a stellar season. Currently, he hold a 2.67 ERA with 105 K’s in 107.2 innings. As mentioned, he is coming off of his worst start though where he lasted only 1.1 innings and gave up eight earned runs and gave up three home runs while facing the Mets. This start was only the second time this year where he allowed more than three runs in a start, so there is still plenty to watch out for.
For his career, Lester has had a ton of success verse the Pirates as well. He holds a 1.90 ERA in 47.1 innings. Pittsburgh has been finding some offense lately, but with the loss of Gregory Polanco due to his hamstring injury and the struggles of Andrew McCutchen, this team is going to have to find players to step up tonight.
David Freese has been on a tear recently. In his last 11 games, Freese has hit .341 while blasting four home runs on 11 hits with an on base percentage of .413. He also is coming off of back to back games with a home run. John Jaso is also heating up as he has hit .375 in the past week. As a whole, the Pirates offense has been getting closer to the machine it was in April, and with the pitching getting consistent it shows just how good this team can be when clicking.
Chad Kuhl will be taking the mound tonight to face the Cubs for the first time in his career. In his two career MLB starts he does have a 4.09 ERA to go along with his 1-0 record, because we all know wins mean so much! His last start verse Oakland was his best of the two. He limited the A’s to two earned runs in 6 innings. Where he walked four against the Dodgers, he didn’t allow a free pass all game in Oakland and struck out two. After coming off of this promising start to go along with the success he had in triple A, he is going to need every bit of confidence to hold his own against this Cubs lineup.