Game Forty-Four: Cubs (18-25) vs. Pirates (26-18)
- Game Time – 6:05pm CDT
- Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channels 183/844
- Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Matt Garza (0-0, -.–/-.–) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25/1.06)
Weather permitting … After spending Monday’s off-day in Pittsburgh, the Cubs begin a difficult road trip tonight with the first of three against the Mighty Pirates. Dale Sveum’s team plays three in Pittsburgh, then three in Cincinnati over the weekend before wrapping up the trip with two on the South Side against the Sox.
Tonight is a big game for the Cubs. Not only will they try to bounce back from Sunday’s bad loss to the Mets but Matt Garza is set to make his season debut. Garza has not pitched on a big league mound in exactly 10 months (July 21, 2012) and will be limited to 85-90 pitches tonight. Carlos Villanueva figures to be Dale Sveum’s first option out of the pen if Garza runs up his pitch count early in the game.
The Cubs will face a much different Pirates team than the one they took two of three from to begin the season. Clint Hurdle’s team is clicking on all cylinders right now, plus Andrew McCutchen was starting to hit before being a late scratch from Sunday’s game with a sore knee. The Cubs and Pirates scored the same amount of runs in the three-game series back in April (six) and it will take another strong series from the pitching staff in order for Sveum’s bunch to leave the Steel City with another series win under their belt.
After tonight’s match-up of Matt Garza and the unhittable Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs will get their first look at lefty Francisco Liriano in a Pirates uniform on Wednesday. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to close out the series against Jeanmar Gomez on Thursday afternoon.
Despite Sunday’s loss, the Cubs are still 13-12 since April 23 and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The next stretch of games leading up to the day off on June 3 figures to be very challenging and could erase the good feelings surrounding the Cubs if they are unable to play clean ball and come away with more than a few victories. After this three game series in Pittsburgh and the three games over the weekend in the Queen City, the Cubs play four against the White Sox, two on the South Side and two at Wrigley, then wrap up 13-game stretch with three at Wrigley against Paul Goldschmidt and the scrappy Diamondbacks.
Tonight it all starts with Matt Garza …
Matt Garza makes his first start of the season tonight after spending the last 10 months on the shelf. Garza is coming off an excellent outing with the I-Cubs, his fourth rehab start in the Cubs’ minor league system. Garza tossed six innings of shutout ball last Thursday. Garza gave up just two singles and hit a batter but did not issue a free pass while striking out six on 75 pitches, 53 for strikes. Garza declared himself ready to join the Cubs’ rotation after his outing.
Garza figures to be extremely amped at the start of the game. Not only is tonight his first start of the year but he has not been on a big league mound of any sort since last July 21 in St. Louis. Garza appeared antsy during the Cubs Convention in January to get back out there … he should be a ball of energy right before he throws the first pitch.
Matt Garza made 18 starts for Dale Sveum a year ago before a stress reaction in his right elbow ended his season in July. Garza was 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in those 18 starts. Garza had a rough stretch in May but had righted his ship and posted a 3-4 record in his last nine starts with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP that included 47 strikeouts with only 13 walks. But that was then and Garza just needs to see he is okay and can pitch without any limitations.
Tonight will mark the fourth time in Garza’s career he has started a game against the Pirates. Garza is 1-1 in the first three with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP … at PNC, 1-1 in two starts with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. The Pirates beat Garza the only time they faced him a year ago. Garza allowed six runs, five earned, on seven hits in five innings with a walk and six strikeouts.
Pirates Career Numbers against Matt Garza
- Pedro Alvarez – 5-for-10 with a home run
- Clint Barmes – 2-for-9 with two home runs
- Brandon Inge – 5-for-12 with a double, a home run and two walks
- Garrett Jones – 4-for-12 with a double and a home run
- Andrew McCutchen – 2-for-6 with a home run
- Michael McKenry – 0-for-4
- Wandy Rodriguez – 1-for-2 with a double
- Gaby Sanchez – 4-for-10 with a double and a walk
- Travis Snider – 1-for-8
- Jose Tabata – 5-for-7 with a triple
- Neil Walker – 0-for-9 with a walk
Let’s get this out of the way, Wandy Rodriguez has owned the Chicago Cubs in recent years and the Cubs make him look just about unhittable when they face they veteran southpaw. Wandy Rodriguez is one of the many reasons the Pirates enter play tonight just two games back of the Cardinals in the central division. Rodriguez is coming off an excellent outing against the Brewers in which he allowed one run on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts in seven innings.
Wandy Rodriguez has not allowed more than one unearned run in each of his last two outings (13 innings) and is 2-1 in his last three starts with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.
Wandy Rodriguez has already beaten the Cubs this season. Rodriguez tossed 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs on April 3 while allowing just two hits with a walk and striking out six. For his career, Rodriquez is 8-7 in 23 starts against the Cubs with a 3.56 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
Cubs Career Numbers against Wandy Rodriguez
- Darwin Barney – 5-for-19 with a walk
- Julio Borbon – 0-for-1
- Welington Castillo – 2-for-6
- Starlin Castro – 4-for-22 with three walks
- David DeJesus – 1-for-5 with a walk
- Matt Garza – 0-for-2
- Scott Hairston – 7-for-22 with three doubles, two home runs and two walks
- Dioner Navarro – 2-for-9 with a double and a walk
- Cody Ransom – 0-for-1 with a walk
- Anthony Rizzo – 3-for-7 with a walk
- Nate Schierholtz – 0-for-3
- Alfonso Soriano – 6-for-44 with a home run and three walks
- Luis Valbuena – 1-for-3
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …