RECORDS: Pirates 40-46 Cubs 42-43
GAMETIMES: Friday 1:20, Saturday 6:15, Sunday 12:10
TV: CSN Friday, Fox Saturday, WGN Sunday
CONFLUENCE OF THE HOPELESS: Bucs Dugout
It’s gotten to the point where asking for a “momentum turner” or “turning point” to the season is too exhausting. Basically all we should require of the Cubs in these last three games before the break is not spitting up all over themselves. Take the two out of three, head into the break at .500, and hit a restart button in Baltimore when we reconvene. This is what it’s come to.
You wouldn’t think that would be too hard of a task against the Pirates, a team the Cubs just took two out of three from on the road a couple weeks ago. A team that is staring at a selling deadline. A team that could lose its two biggest stars in the coming months in Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen. But nothing had been that straight forward for the Cubs this year.
The Pirates had a chance to get back into things for real after the Cubs left the Steel City. They split with the Brewers on the road, then took two of three from the Cardinals down in Illiterate-ville. They beat the Rays two out of three, and were on something of a roll. They then somehow contrived to get domed at home three straight by the Giants, who can’t tie their shoes properly at the moment. They recovered by taking three of four from the Fightins in Philly, but that’s requisite by law.
The problems with the Bucs aren’t any different than you last remember. They don’t hit much. Only a revitalized McCutchen is having a plus offensive season, with Marte suspended. Josh Harrison has been close to one, but has to hit his way on consistently as he just doesn’t walk. He’s added just enough power to be useful this year. But other than that there just isn’t much. Freese is starting to look like he’s in his mid-30s, we chronicled Polanco’s problems earlier, and Josh Bell hasn’t made enough contact to make his high-walk, high-power ways count. Yet. He probably will. Hopefully not this weekend.
The rotation hasn’t been bad. Taillon has been excellent since he returned from a cancer-driven absence. His one bad start came against the Cubs, which makes you dread him giving the Cubs a swirly on Sunday. Gerrit Cole is slowly recovering from a bad start, and Ivan Nova at least kept the Cubs silent last time for the most part. Trevor Williams has shown very good control in his first stint in the majors. It’s not a lights out staff, but with any kind of offense it might have been enough to at least see the Pirates get in wet-willie distance of the Cubs and Brewers.
The pen has pieces too. Felipe Rivero has taken over the closer’s role and has been dominant. Jhan Martinez doesn’t strike out a lot of guys but doesn’t walk anyone. Tony Watson has lost the closer’s job, and deservedly. If they have to make it up from the middle innings they have problems. If they can get to Rivero and Martinez directly, things look better.
Any kind of buzz before the break would be welcome. But we’ve been asking that all season. Frankly, we could all use a few days away from each other.