The Chicago Cubs need to win two of three this weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish the first half at the .500 mark. Eddie Butler toes the rubber in Friday afternoon’s series opener.
Following a blowout loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Joe Maddon better hope the Chicago Cubs have a short memory. The team dropped an 11-2 decision that dropped them 4 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central race.
The club’s attention now turns to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who come to town this weekend for a three-game set to conclude the season’s first half. Chicago (42-43) has underperformed since Opening Night – and seem ready to close the book on the first portion of the 162-game slate.
Eddie Butler will team up with former Iowa Cubs teammate Victor Caratini as the Cubs’ battery in Friday’s opener. Butler (4-3, 4.18) comes off a rocky start in which he allowed four earned in just 3 2/3 innings pitched. He cruised through the first three frames before the wheels fell off in the fourth in a 5-3 loss to the Reds.
Caratini makes just his second big-league start Friday. He remains hitless heading into the sixth game of his Cubs career. The switch-hitting catcher bats seventh in the lineup, followed by Addison Russell and Butler.
Veteran Ben Zobrist returns to the leadoff spot. He owns an .889 OPS at the top of the order this season, but is mired in one of the worst years of his career. The reigning World Series MVP carries a batting average just north of . 200 this year in 58 games.
Pittsburgh looking up in Central
On Friday, Chicago faces right-hander Trevor Williams. He features a fastball that sits around 93 mph – and has struggled against right-handed hitters. Under pressure, Williams has looked more than vulnerable – but the Cubs will have to capitalize with runners on to take advantage of this.
His last time out marked one of his best starts this season. He allowed just two earned on three hits in six innings of work against the San Francisco Giants, striking out three and walking one.
Chicago and Pittsburgh continue their weekend series Saturday night at Wrigley.