Cubs look to stay perfect in season series vs. Pirates

Cubs look to stay perfect in season series vs. Pirates

Despite being caught up in the middle of a tight playoff race, the Chicago Cubs are feeling loose heading into the opener of a four-game series against the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

“I can’t wait to get to my phone when we win, and I don’t want to check when we lose,” Cubs manager David Ross said of keeping track of the National League Central and wild-card races. “Just being honest. That’s the fan in me and the competitor in me.”

Chicago has won five of its last seven games following a 6-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday to take hold of the second NL wild-card spot by a percentage point over the Cincinnati Reds.

Pittsburgh represents a lower-echelon club, one the Cubs have dominated this year. Chicago is a perfect 6-0 against the Pirates, have swept two three-game series in June.

The Pirates are using a stable of young players with an eye toward the future. They missed a chance to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, falling 6-4.

One veteran who has been helping to carry Pittsburgh is Andrew McCutchen. The designated hitter had the first three-double game of his career on Wednesday and is one homer shy of 300 for after reaching 2,000 hits earlier this season.

Over his past five games, McCutchen is 8-for-22 (.364) with two homers and seven RBIs.

“I just go up there and try to hit the ball. That’s pretty much it,” McCutchen said. “I try not to give too much thought about it.”

Chicago left-hander Justin Steele (14-3, 2.80 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener, while Pittsburgh had yet to name a starter.

In his past 10 outings, Steele has eight quality starts, going 7-1 with a 2.90 ERA.

Most recently, he allowed two runs on six hits in six innings in a win against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. He didn’t issue a walk while striking out seven.

“He’s been so good for us and given us six (innings) consistently,” Ross said. “He’s one of our best pitchers. You’ve got to put trust in him, ride him and give him the ball. When in doubt, he’s been really good.”

Steele is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh has been struggling to figure out a rotation. In fact, there hasn’t really been one lately, with a combination of spot starters, openers and bullpen games popping up at least once a series.

In recent weeks, it also has not been unusual for the Pirates to announce their starter late the previous day or even on game day itself. Pittsburgh dealt left-hander Rich Hill at the trade deadline, and right-hander Roansy Contreras was demoted to the minors in July after struggling in the big leagues. Hill and Contreras combined to make 33 starts for the Pirates earlier this season.

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh recalled right-hander Luis L. Ortiz from Triple-A Indianapolis for a spot start, and perhaps more.

Ortiz started and struggled against St. Louis, allowing five runs on seven hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings, taxing the bullpen.

Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton declined to commit to giving Ortiz more starts, even though that could help ease problems with the rotation.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” Shelton said.

—Field Level Media

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.