Chicago Cubs: Cubs look to win another series as Pirates invade Wrigley
The Chicago Cubs have won two of three games in each series so far. Will that trend continue? They must defend their turf against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It has not been easy, or pretty. Yet, the Chicago Cubs have managed to win two out of three games in each of the series they have played to open the season. Two of those series were against true National League playoff hopefuls. The other against one of their rivals. Will they be able to continue their winning ways?
We hope so. The Pittsburgh Pirates will invade Wrigley Field this weekend, hoping to plunder and escape with a few wins. After losing four straight games, wins are needed to careen the ship. But the prowling Cubs and plan on marooning the team in chase.
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Manning the ships
Steering the ship for the Pirates is Gerrit Cole, hoping to right the course of his season. In his first two starts, one home and one on the road, Cole allowed eight runs in 11 innings of work. Teams have complained 15 hits including three home runs against the right-handed pitcher. But do not let those numbers fool you, as he finds the Friendly Confines, well, friendly.
At Wrigley Field, Cole is 6-1 in seven starts, with a 2.20 ERA, with out a home run allowed. That includes eight innings of shutout work in Wrigley last season. In terms of NL Central parks, he pitches better in Chicago than anywhere else.
But, the Chicago Cubs counter with 2016 MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. The young pitcher is making his second start of the season, and his first at home. While he picked up the win against the Brewers in this initial appearance this year, he gave up two home runs and four runs total. Still, his control was impressive. Six batters fell victim of the strikeout, and only one walked.
Wrigley Field’s mound can be renamed for Hendricks after his 2016 season. He looked as comfortable there as anywhere, going 9-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 15 home starts. And, as good as Cole is against the Cubs, Hendricks is better versus the Pirates. For example, in 2016, Hendricks allowed the Pirates one run on 17 hits over 19 innings.
Blow Cole Down
The plan of attack is simple: wear down Cole. And that can only happen two ways. First, each batter must work counts. In the win versus the Dodgers yesterday, five of the starting nine saw 17 or more pitches. That is four or more pitchers per plate appearance. Kyle Schwarber is fourth the league in that category with an average of 4.24. However, Cole only averages 3.5 pitches per plate appearance, 10th best in the NL.
Working counts and getting on base is not enough. The Chicago Cubs must score. In two starts, Cole allowed 28 total bases to this opponents, or 2.54 bases per inning. They are also hitting hitting .333 against him. This should set up well for the Cubs.
The lineup for the Cubs features a solid left-handed lineup. A game after getting his first RBI of the year, Anthony Rizzo tallied his first home run of 2017. And, the Jason Heyward reached base safely for the ninth game in a row. Here is the lineup.
The Pirates come into Wrigley losing four straight game. The offense is fourth worse in runs in all of baseball, even though they are 19th in batting average. They do not strike out a ton, nor do they hit into double plays. What is concerning they just cannot move runners over or knock them in.
The opening game of the series will be on MLB Network, with first pitch scheduled for 1:20pm CT. Temperatures could reach the 60’s today, with a light wind from the east. After a few cold days, a little warmth is welcomed
Next: Offensive struggles continue into season’s second week
Should the Cubs continue to pitch and play defense, while getting a bit of offense, they should survive the invasion. If not, the Pirate could make them walk the plank.