Chicago Cubs set for critical showdown with Pittsburgh Pirates


Recently, we sat down with Rum Bunter’s Jason Rollison to talk about this week’s showdown between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.

Both clubs enter play Tuesday with a .700 winning percentage in their last 10 ballgames, with Pittsburgh just 2 1/2 games out in the division and the Cubs four games back of the Bucs for the top wild card spot in the National League.

With Chicago facing Pittsburgh and St. Louis this week, the next seven days could very well determine what advantages (or disadvantages) each of these organizations will have come October baseball.

Without further adieu, here’s our sit-down with the Rum Bunter co-editor:

1) What do you think is the more likely option: the Cubs catching the Pirates or the Pirates catching the Cardinals?

Sorry to break it to those on the North Side, but I think it is the Pirates catching the Cards. The Cardinals are FINALLY going through the swoon we have all been waiting for all season. A 2.5-game deficit seems paltry compared to what it has been the rest of the year, however a 4.0-game deficit as you guys currently face may be a bit more unrealistic with 20-something games left.

2) Who is the Bucs’ x-factor? What should Cubs fans expect to see from Gerrit Cole, as he carries a 6-1 record and a sub-3.00 ERA against Chicago into Tuesday’s contest.

Gerrit Cole was recently skipped in the rotation presumably for rest, but it could also be to give him a bit of perspective. Cole has been up and down in the second-half after a sparkling beginning to the season. WIth the rest, the Cubs can expect to see a fresh and motivated bulldog on the mound.

The best thing about the Pirates is that they are full of x-factors. The easy way out to answer this would be to say Francisco Cervelli, as he has led the way with his infectious enthusiasm and production behind the plate. His presence is felt in all facets of the game.

But we can also point to Jung Ho Kang, who won’t win Rookie of the Year but could steal some votes from The Golden Boy (is that an acceptable nickname for Kris Bryant?).

Or perhaps we could even point to Aramis Ramirez, who is plying his trade at first base for the first time in his career.

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3) You get to start a franchise – pick from the following: Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo

I’m a pitching first guy, so it comes down to Arrieta vs Cole for me. I’m going to go with Cole, and even though that may seem like a total homer pick, it’s pretty darn close. Going to go with Cole just because he’s slightly younger than Arrieta, but it’s going to be great to watch these two in the Central over the next few years.

4) Series prediction?

Over at Rum Bunter, we have been batting back-and-forth on if we would be satisfied with a four-game split. With a doubleheader throwing a wrench into things, I’d be very happy with a 2-2 split, and that’s what I am predicting.

Next: Breaking down potential Cubs' offseason targets