Chicago Cubs: What it will take to beat the Pirates


The Cubs and Pirates are familiar foes, but how much will that matter?

The National League wildcard game is almost here and the closer we get to battle the question remains; what will be waiting for us on the other side of the battlefield? Yes, it’s a familiar foe but the Chicago Cubs have some key targets that they must be aware of come Wednesday night. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of weapons in their arsenal. Throw the regular season records and stats in the trash because postseason is a different beast. If the Cubs hope to come out on top, they must identify where the major threats are on a Pirates team that has made winning a habit in recent years.

Despite the success Jake Arrieta has enjoyed all year, make no mistake that Pirates starter Gerrit Cole is just as talented. Almost a 20-game winner himself, Cole has outclassed the rest of the Pirates rotation this year.

Sporting a fastball that has been tough to read, Cole can sneak past hitters with the illusion that his pitchers are faster then they are. His command has been outstanding and scoring runs will be at a premium Wednesday night. If Cole can reach the late innings it may spell doom for the Cubs with the strength of their late-game bullpen.

For every good pitcher, there is always a good catcher making them look better. Francisco Cervelli has been a great replacement after the departure of Russell Martin a year ago. Not only does Cervelli call a great game but his ability to frame pitches is underrated as well. Throw in his .295 batting average and you have a tough out from a position that has been traditionally weak offensively.

Key to beating the duo: If the Cubs have any hope of beating the Pirates, it will be vital to get the pitch count up early. When the Cubs have been at their best, they have had opposing starters getting a high pitch count early. The top part of the lineup needs to set the table and not help the Pirates get out of the early frames without working for it.

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sleeping MVP:

Do you remember Andrew McCutchenThe former NL MVP has been relatively quiet against the Cubs this year but loves the spotlight. Although we didn’t suffer the wrath of “Cutch” so far, if the Cubs aren’t careful he will make them pay. McCutchen had 23 homers with 96 rbi’s this season. What makes the Pirates dangerous, and McCutchen specifically is the focus on team hitting. The Pirates won’t beat teams with the long ball. They will string together hits and it starts with the leaders that have been there.

Key to beating the MVP: Arrieta needs to be crisp with his pitches to the top of the lineup. In a perfect scenario McCutchen will be forced to hit with the bases empty. If the Cubs pitching can keep the Bucs on the base paths, the Pirates may not find the scoreboard at all.

Shutting the Door:

Mark Melancon has been a stud this year. Another all-star campaign capped off by his 51 saves makes him next to impossible to beat if he has the lead. Melancon uses a devious cutter that seems to find the very edge of the black. The Rivera-like accuracy makes him a deadly feature late and it could be the final nail in the coffin if the Cubs find themselves down in the 9th.

Key to beating Melancon: The best advice here…..get a lead. If the Cubs can play from ahead it changes the whole dynamic of the Pirates roster. The structure of their bullpen will be taken out of their hands and it will be up to the Pirates to out-manage Joe Maddon in order to gain the advantage back. Luckily for the Cubs, if they do find themselves face to face with Melancon, they have seen plenty of him. Let’s hope they have studied the scouting reports.

The defensive aggressiveness that the Pirates show will be evident early. If Maddon decides to go lefty heavy at the top, the Pirates won’t hesitate to play the shift in order to play the odds. Cubs hitters need to show patience at the plate and go with the pitch when they can.

The Pittsburgh Pirates present a lot of problems for opponents and there is a reason they have been so good. The Cubs have the benefit of knowing what to expect and they will need it to win. Wednesday night is just the beginning of the Cubs revival and it will be a great measuring stick for the seasons to come. Rizzo is ready, Arrieta is ready, the Cubs are ready….#LetsGo

Next: Maddon has plenty of options