Game One Hundred Five: Cubs (57-47) vs. Pirates (61-43)
- Game Time – 6:05pm CDT
- Coverage – TV: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN – Radio: WBBM 780, Cubs Radio Network, XM Radio Channels 184, 844
- Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Jon Lester (6-8, 3.26/1.17/2.93) vs. Francisco Liriano (7-6, 2.92/1.06/2.94)
Weather permitting … The Cubs road trip continues tonight with the first of three in Pittsburgh. The Cubs start their most important seven-game stretch of the season with three games against the Pirates and it wraps Sunday with the conclusion of a four-game series at Wrigley with the Giants.
The Cubs have played good enough to this point of the season to stay in the mix for a spot in baseball’s post-season tournament. And while there will be 50 games left after the next two series, the Cubs have a chance to make up ground on the Pirates then create a little space between themselves and the Giants. First up is the Pirates and this is not the same team the Cubs had success against earlier in the season.
The Cubs are 6-4 in the first 10 games with the Pirates. But the two teams have not seen one another since May 17. The Cubs won two of three that weekend against the Pirates and dropped the Bucs to 18-22 on the season. Since that series, the Pirates are 43-21 and are arguably the second best team in the National League.
The Cubs will see three lefties during the series. It will be interesting to see how Joe Maddon uses Kyle Schwarber in the first two games and mix in Chris Denorfia in the outfield. David Ross will be behind the plate for the first two games.
Jon Lester squares off against Francisco Liriano tonight. And Jake Arrieta is scheduled to face J.A. Happ in his Pirates’ debut Tuesday. The Pirates acquired Happ at the deadline to take A.J. Burnett’s spot in the rotation. Burnett’s season and career might be over due to his recent arm injury. Dan Haren makes his Cubs’ debut Wednesday against lefty Jeff Locke.
The pitching staff will have to keep a very good Pirates lineup in check that now features Aramis Ramirez. While the former Cubs’ third baseman has gotten off to a slow start in his return to the Pirates, Ramirez has always done damage against the Cubs.
Kris Bryant is expected to be in the starting lineup and the young Cubs must make Francisco Liriano work the same way they did back in April.
Tonight all starts with Jon Lester …
Jon Lester did not make the headlines in July that he did in June because he had a good month. Lester is coming off one of his best starts of the year. Lester allowed two runs on five hits in eight innings to the high-flying Rockies. Lester walked one and struck out 14 batters … and in the process, Lester entered the Cubs’ record books. Lester became the first Cubs’ lefty to strike out 14 batters in a single start since 1914.
Lester is 2-2 in his last six starts with a 1.66 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Over his last 43 1/3 innings, Lester has allowed 11 runs, eight earned, on 28 hits with five walks and 50 strikeouts. Outside of Wrigley this year, Lester is 2-2 in eight starts with a 3.24 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. And he takes on the Pirates for the second time this season.
Jon Lester beat the Pirates back on May 16. Lester allowed one run on nine hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings. The lone run was a Sean Rodriguez homer in a 4-1 Cubs’ win.
Pirates Career Numbers against Jon Lester
- Sean Rodriguez: 9-for-36 with three doubles, two home runs and four walks
- Chris Stewart: 3-for-7 with one home run and two walks
- Francisco Cervelli: 2-for-9 with one walk
- Andrew McCutchen: 0-for-6
- Aramis Ramirez: 3-for-7 with one double
- Neil Walker: 2-for-7
- Jung Ho Kang: 2-for-3
- Starling Marte: 2-for-3 with one double
Francisco Liriano has put together another very good season for the Pirates and he is coming off back-to-back wins against the Nationals and Twins. Liriano beat his old team his last time out. Liriano allowed three runs, two earned, on 10 hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Over his last five starts, Liriano is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Liriano is 3-4 in 11 starts at PNC this season with a 3.65 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. And he makes his second start against the Cubs.
The Cubs actually put runs on the board against Liriano on April 21 at Wrigley. Liriano received a no decision in a 9-8 loss to the Cubs after allowing three runs on three hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in five innings.
Francisco Liriano is 4-2 in 10 career starts against the Cubs with a 2.56 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
Cubs Career Numbers against Francisco Liriano
- Starlin Castro: 3-for-22 with two doubles and three walks
- Anthony Rizzo: 4-for-20 with one home run and two walks
- Chris Denorfia: 2-for-9 with one double and three walks
- Dexter Fowler: 1-for-5 with four walks
- Jorge Soler: 1-for-6
- Kris Bryant: 1-for-3 with one double
- David Ross: 0-for-3
- Addison Russell: 0-for-2
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …