RECORDS: Pirates 63-68 Cubs 69-60
GAMETIMES: 7:05 Monday-Wednesday
TV: WGN Monday, CSN Tuesday and Wednesday
WONDER BOYS: Bucs Dugout
It feels like I’ve started the last five or six series previews with the general theme of, “Time to eat.” Well, the Cubs aren’t going to eat. At least I’m going to stop expecting them to. This is feeling more and more like 2007, where the engine never truly revs but thanks to the flaccidness of the rest of the division, it never really has to. And when we get to October, we’ll talk ourselves into how it all can go our way again. This team is more poised to do more than that ’07 one was–it won’t have an idiot like Rich Hill starting a game and has more than three pitchers maybe–but that’s just how it’s going to. So here come the Pirates, reeling and waving the white flag on this season and ready to be thumped. They’ll still get a stupid win, you just know it.
There was a moment, somewhere in July, where the Bucs got ahead of the Cardinals for a minute, were playing pretty well, and while they weren’t a threat to catch the Cubs or Brewers if you squinted you could see where if the Rockies or Diamondbacks collapsed (and they kind of are) the Pirates could miracle their ass to the top of the obstacle. That basically went splat when they lost six in a row to the Jays, Brewers, and Cardinals, and 10 of their last 13. They’re five games under and only the Reds prop them up.
Like any team that’s starting three very young pitchers, they’ve had their problems. Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, and Jameson Taillon have had serious problems finding the plate the past month, each averaging over four walks per nine innings. With that many free passes, it doesn’t take an abnormal amount of hits to score a lot of runs, and there go your problems. Ivan Nova has had the other problem, where he might be catching too much of the plate. Hitters are tagging him for a .303 average, and his home run rate is getting near to two per nine innings the last 30 days. Only Cole has held it together.
Offensively, they’ve unearthed the monster that they hoped Josh Bell would become. He slugging nearly .600 his last month, lowering his strikeout rate to 9.6%. He’s the main danger right now in the lineup. Starling Marte hasn’t been much at all since he came back from his suspension. Cutch has flattened out a bit since his sizzling midseason, in what could be his farewell in the Steel City. Josh Harrison makes a ton of contact, the problem is a whole lot of it doesn’t mean much. David Freese got old in a hurry. Jordy Mercy has always been a free pass for pitchers.
The pen has lost Tony Watson to the Dodgers (because they need him?), and hence it’s basically Felipe Rivero and the Pips. Juan Nicasio has been ok, but Daniel Hudson and A.J. Schugel can’t find the zone with a GPS and a guide dog. The Bucs can keep it interesting late if they have a lead.
It feels like it should be a profitable homestand, but we keep saying that. The Pirates basically suck, and the Braves definitely do. But we’ve been singing that song for a month or two now. Until they do it, we’re all in this slog together.