Series Preview – Pirates (2-4) at Cubs (4-2)

Chicago probably doesn’t have the most talent in the NL Central anymore, but they certainly still have the most battle tested unit. They come into this series fresh off a rain shortened trip to Cincinnati in which they took 2 of 3 but they certainly didn’t run away with the series.

The Reds put 24 runs on the Cubbies in this series while the North Siders plated 23 of their own. Needless to say, the Cubs and Reds pitching was less than stellar.

Now, before you go getting too excited, the Pirates have yet to show they can consistently take advantage of that fact, although sometimes the windy confines of Wrigley are necessary medicine for a club not firing on even half their cylindars at the plate.

The Cubbies continue to add to their club internally and the latest new face is Nico Hoerner, a SS by trade he has already played SS, 2B, LF, and RF for the Cubs and all he’s done is collect seven hits in 18 at bats. If he keeps this pace up and Kris Bryant continues to struggle form the leadoff spot, he’ll make a push to get a shot there himself.

Game one tonight will feature Williams vs Darvish, game two Keller vs Chatwood and game 3 (Brault or Kuhl -TBA) vs Lester. Honestly, pretty even matchups based on what we’ve seen thus far in 2020. The difference could very well be run support, and that is where the Cubs have a tremendous advantage.

If the Bucs are to keep this season on the tracks, and I’m not even talking about a playoff berth, their best hitters need to start looking like it. The combination of Newman, Reynolds, Bell, Polanco, and Frazier can’t continue to hit under the Mendoza line.

Derek Shelton is only managing his third series of course but so is David Ross. Each being former catchers (some more recent than others) there are quite a few similarities there and while you can’t stack them side by side based on team stats you will certainly get a picture that all rookies are not created equal.

Shelton has been loathed to use his bench and the Pirates only have 2 official pinch hits so far this year. David Ross is already more free wheeling shuffling guys in and out with regularity and to great effect.

Another big difference is Ross seems to value the consistency of his starting backstop Contreras who has anchored the club starting 5 of the team’s 6 contests. The American league background of Shelton comes to mind when typical National league fans recognize situations that arise in-game. Watch for those tonight and all weekend for that matter. Watch the way Ross is quick to get matchups at the plate vs how Shelton handles the same. I’m really starting to believe there is something to this background.

The Cubs are probably on the cusp of at least a newsworthy change to their roster following this season, but the way they continue to restock with fresh talent is impressive. Pitching remains a position they’ve spent money to fill as the Lester’s and Darvish’s of the world travel the downside of their journey, the Cubs will turn to Chatwood to lead the rotation. This season that transition begins in earnest.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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