Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Pirates – 07/24/12

Game Ninety-Six: Cubs (39-56) vs. Pirates (54-41)
Game Time – 6:05pm CDT
Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 187/914
Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh

Paul Maholm (8-6, 4.09/1.29) vs. James McDonald (10-3, 2.93/1.11)

The Cubs ended their three-game losing streak Monday night behind a superb outing from Jeff Samardzija and improved to 15-8 in their last 23 games. The Cubs’ offense has really struggled over the last four games. Dale Sveum’s team has scored a grand total of three runs and just two since the second inning of Friday’s game. The pitching staff has been doing a good job of late without much support and runs figure to be few and far between tonight with James McDonald on the mound.

When Neal Huntington acquired James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel and cash from the Dodgers at the deadline two years ago (2010), the Pirates’ GM did not make any headlines. But the deal for the underachieving McDonald has paid big dividends for the Pirates. McDonald started putting it together last season, has been outstanding this year and is one of the reasons the Pirates are 13 games over .500. Even the small deals at this time of year are important and not all trades can be evaluated correctly at the time a deal is done.

In other news Matt Garza has been pushed back at least a day before he makes his next start. Garza was scheduled to pitch Friday’s opener against the Cardinals at Wrigley. The Cubs announced Travis Wood will make the start against the Redbirds on Friday with Garza, for now, starting game two. Garza said he felt better Monday and wants to avoid the disabled list.

Tonight it all starts with Paul Maholm

Paul Maholm is in the middle of another excellent stretch and his string of solid outings has teams like the Pirates and Royals interested in trading for him. Maholm has not lost a game in just over a month (June 23 in Arizona) and is 4-0 in his last four starts.

Maholm tossed eight very good frames, with help from his defense, in his last outing against the Marlins. Maholm allowed one run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. In his last four starts, Maholm has walked four batters while striking out 20 batters.

Paul Maholm is 3-0 in his four appearances, three starts, with a 1.23 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP … and he will try to beat his old team for the first time tonight. Maholm took a no decision in his return to Pittsburgh after allowing two runs on four hits with a season-high five walks and two strikeouts in five innings. The Cubs lost the game 3-2 when Rafael Dolis hit Matt Hague with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

Pirates Career Numbers against Paul Maholm

  • Pedro Alvarez – 1-for-3
  • Rod Barajas – 3-for-6 with a double and three walks
  • Clint Barmes – 13-for-29 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and three walks
  • Josh Harrison – 0-for-2
  • Andrew McCutchen – 1-for-1 with two walks
  • Casey McGehee – 6-for-20 with a triple, a home run and four walks
  • Neil Walker – 1-for-2

The Cubs will get their first look of the season at the newly improved James McDonald. McDonald has always had the talent and he is putting it together this year.

After posting a 3-1 record in five starts last month with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, McDonald is 3-0 in his last four starts with a 4.94 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. McDonald was very good in his last outing prior to the break (one run on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts in seven innings against the Giants) but his All-Star snub has apparently gotten to him.

McDonald is coming off back-to-back rough outings. The Brewers torched McDonald in Milwaukee on July 13 (five runs, four earned, on eight hits with five walks and two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings). McDonald picked up the win in his worst start of the year his last time out. The Pirates scored nine runs while McDonald allowed a season high six runs on nine hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

If the Cubs can score early tonight they will keep doubt in the mind of a young pitcher who is facing adversity for the first time this season.

James McDonald is 4-1 in eight starts at home this season with a spectacular 1.69 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP.

Tonight will be the fourth start of James McDonald’s career against the Cubs. McDonald is 0-1 in four appearances, three starts, against the Cubs with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

Cubs Career Numbers against James McDonald

  • Darwin Barney – 2-for-7 with a walk
  • Tony Campana – 0-for-1
  • Starlin Castro – 2-for-9
  • Joe Mather – 0-for-2
  • Alfonso Soriano – 0-for-4 with a walk
  • Geovany Soto – 1-for-6 with a home run

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