Cubs can take control of the NL Central this week against the Pirates

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

A couple weeks ago when the Cubs headed to Detroit to take on a rebuilding Tigers team, I wrote about how it was a must-win series for Chicago. They wound up taking two of three and should have come away with a sweep of the weekend series.

This week, David Ross’ club finds itself in a similar spot, taking on the last-place Pirates at PNC Park, trailing the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals by just 1 1/2 games after the Redbirds fell to the White Sox on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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With the entire division separated by just 7 1/2 games and the top three clubs in the race within two games of one another, the margin for error right now is slim. After getting off to a rocky start, Chicago looks like its starting to find its form at the right time, perhaps to the extent the front office might wind up looking to add, rather than sell, at the deadline in July.

Veteran Jake Arrieta will take the ball for the Cubs in Tuesday’s series opener, looking to get the team off on the right foot. He’s been very good against Pittsburgh this year, but has been a mixed bag in two starts since returning from the IL, beating the Tigers and dropping a decision to the Nationals after allowing four earned in just five innings of work.

Cubs hoping a lackluster Pirates offense is a boost for Trevor Williams

The big question mark pitching-wise comes in Wednesday night’s matchup when former Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams is set to start for Chicago. Williams has been a disaster this year (-0.3 WAR, 5.97 ERA) – leading some to speculate he could be on the brink of losing his spot in the rotation.

The good news for Williams and a scorching hot Cubs bullpen? Pittsburgh ranks as one of the worst clubs in the league offensively – evidenced by an NL-worst .643 team OPS. The pitching hasn’t fared much better, either, posting the second-highest team ERA in the Senior Circuit this season.

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All this to say the Cubs need to take care of business this week in the Steel City. The Pirates are not only a very beatable team, but they’re one of those clubs that you have to handle if you want to play meaningful games late in the season. Coming off a big series win over the Cardinals, Chicago needs to keep its foot on the gas and continue closing the gap in the NL Central.