Cubs vs Pirates – Series Preview (April 1-4): TV and Game Info, Starting Pitchers, Insights

Sometimes you just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. 

A cliché, maybe, but one that’s as common as it is precisely because it applies to so many things in life. So forgive me for not holding the Cubs’ last game in front of fans at beautiful and historic Wrigley Field with any particular reverence at the time it happened on September 22, 2019. 

The team had just suffered an absolute drubbing of a series against the archrival St. Louis Cardinals that thoroughly knocked them out of contention for both the National League Central crown and the playoffs in general. For many of us, the last place we wanted to be was at Wrigley Field.

Things sure do change, don’t they? 

While we did mercifully get to see Cubs baseball in 2020, not one of us saw it in person from anything closer than a rooftop. That changes in 2021 and it changes right away, with the Cubs hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates for the opening contest of what will be a classic, 162 game season. 

And really, you couldn’t hope for a better opponent if you’re looking for the Cubs to get off to a good start in the first three of those 162 games. There’s not a lot of room to fall from the Pirates’ .317 winning percentage in 2020, but they have somehow managed to make their roster substantially worse anyway by shedding two of their better players in starting pitcher Joe Musgrove and first baseman Josh Bell. 

All of this to say, that if you’re looking for more Cubs-Pirates, or really anyone-Pirates action like this in 2021, you’re very likely to see it.

Game Time and Broadcast Info

  • Thursday, April 1 at 1:20pm CST on Marquee
  • Saturday, April 3 at 1:20pm CST on Marquee
  • Sunday, April 4 at 1:20pm CST on Marquee

Starting Pitchers (2020 statistics) 

Date Pitcher Age T ERA W/L FIP K/BB
4/1 Kyle Hendricks 31 R 2.88 6-5 3.55 8.00
Chad Kuhl 28 R 4.27 2-3 4.70 2.45
4/3 Jake Arrieta 35 R 5.08 4-4 4.66 2.00
Tyler Anderson 31 L 4.37 4-3 4.36 1.64
4/4 Zach Davies 28 R 2.73 7-4 3.88 3.32
Mitch Keller 24 R 2.91 1-1 6.75 0.89

What to Watch For

  • There’s a lot to watch for in the Cubs starting rotation in the opening series. Look above for some of it. Of note, did you realize just how good Davies was last year? He was basically just as effective as Hendricks. The Yu Darvish trade still stings a bit largely because much of the return was thought to be too future-focused, but that doesn’t apply to Davies.
  • Speaking of Davies, he’ll be getting making his Wrigley Field debut in a Cubs uniform. It’s definitely not his Wrigley Field debut though. The longtime Brewer has made nine Wrigley starts and is 4-3 with a 3.70 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. Opinions will vary as to how much stock to put into that history, but at the very least it’s certainly not cause for pessimism.
  • Cubs fans will have their eyes on David Bote not just this weekend, but all season long. After the surprise demotion of Nico Hoerner, manager David Ross has said that Bote will be the team’s primary starter at second base. Bote has a career 101 wRC+ and metrics generally paint him as as an average-ish defensive second baseman, which my eye test mostly agrees with. If Bote was able to replicate that production, second base certainly isn’t a “hole” even if you feel Hoerner was the better option. If Bote does struggle, not only does the possibility of 2020 Gold Glove finalist Hoerner coming back up remain, but Eric Sogard lingers on the bench.
  • What about those Pirates? They’ve lost some of their better players but they’re not totally without talent. Ke’Bryan Hayes was excellent in a small sample at third base last year. His 195 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR is pretty eye popping and the latter mark led the team despite playing less than half the season.
  • Another Buc who put up a strong season last year is left-handed starter Steven Brault. The Cubs won’t see him this weekend, though, because he’s out for at least a month due to a lat injury.
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