After losing two of three against the Cardinals, the Cubs continue their road trip with two games against the Pirates. The Cubs sit at 61-44 on the season and currently lead the NL Central by one game over the Brewers and hold a seven-game lead over the third place Pirates. The Cubs enter this series at 6-6 since the All-Star break and are looking to create a little more space in the division.
The offense has been scuffling a little since the start of the second half, as their 4.25 runs/game falls well short of their season average of 5.02 runs/game. Part of this can be attributed to the lack of firepower in the middle of their lineup, as Kris Bryant is once again on the disabled list with his reoccurring shoulder injury.
The rotation has also been a concern for much of the season, as Jon Lester has been the only consistent starter. The Cubs made a move to shore up the starting five by trading for Cole Hamels last week. He will actually make his Cubs debut in the second game of this series. The pitching staff needs to establish some consistency during this short series and moving forward in the second half.
Pittsburgh enters the series at 55-52 on the season and has been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last month. They are 7-3 since the break and 15-4 since July 8. Their offense has been anchored by the trio of Corey Dickerson (.318, 11 HR), Starling Marte (.288, 16 HR), and Gregory Polanco (.251, 18 HR). Each of these guys are capable of changing the game with one swing and slowing them down will be key to stifling the Pirates offense in this series.
The Cubs are starting two southpaws in this series in Lester and Hamels and the Pirates as a team have struggled against lefties all season, hitting .241. Of the aforementioned trio of Pirates hitters, only Dickerson (.310) has a batting average against lefties above .213. This could be key to slowing the Pirates’ momentum enough for the Cubs to win this series.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Tuesday, July 31 at 6:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Wednesday, August 1 at 6:05pm CT on WGN
What To Watch For
- Anthony Rizzo seems to have finally shaken off his season-long slump in July (.307 average, .404 OBP, 3 HR, 14 RBI). With Bryant out for the immediate future, the Cubs might need to ride this hot streak for awhile.
- Hamels is making his Cubs debut in this series and may be able to provide some quality innings in a rotation that has been shaky all season. His 4.72 ERA is a career high, but he could be rejuvenated by being in a pennant race and can help the Cubs down the stretch.
- Albert Almora Jr. (.232 average) and Jason Heyward (.238 average) have gone a little cold in the month of July. Each of them is key to maintaining a consistent offense and the hope is that they can overcome these low points.