Game Eighty-Seven: Cubs (52-34) vs. Pirates (45-42)
- Game Time – 6:15pm CDT
- Coverage – TV: FOX Saturday Baseball – Radio: WSCR 670 The Score, Cubs Radio Network, XM Radio Channels 89, 844
- Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Jon Lester, LHP (9-4, 2.67/1.05/3.70) vs. Chad Kuhl, RHP (1-0, 4.09/1.36/4.18)
Weather permitting … Jon Lester gets the ball tonight as the Cubs look to snap its skid and avoid the first five-game losing streak of the season. The Cubs have not played good ball, losing eight of nine. But a win behind Lester would put Joe Maddon’s team in position to take the series on Sunday afternoon.
Willson Contreras will be behind the plate tonight. Contreras will catch Lester for the first time. Lester recently completed a side session with Contreras. The Cubs success tonight will hinge on how quickly Lester and Contreras can get on the same page. Lester depends on his routine and it will definitely be different today.
The Cubs have dropped eight of nine while the Pirates have won eight of nine. Even with the Cubs a game under .500 over the last 55 games (27-28), a victory tonight will push the Pirates back in the division and will inch the Cubs closer to finishing the ‘first half’ of the season 20 games above .500.
Len Kasper has the call on FOX with C.J. Nitkowski.
Tonight all starts with Jon Lester …
Jon Lester had the worst start of his career the last time out. Lester was really, really bad against a Mets team that seemed to know all weekend what the Cubs were going to throw before the pitch was made. The Mets lit up Lester and seemingly every ball they put in place fell in for a hit. Lester gave up eight runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
Jon Lester depends on his routine. Outside of two starts this season, Lester has been extremely good with David Ross behind the plate. With Ross on the DL and Willson Contreras catching him for the first time, it will be interesting to see how quickly the two can get on the same page. The Pirates will not be able to run on Willson Contreras. Getting on the same page as soon as possible is imperative to the Cubs’ success tonight.
Prior to the dud in Queens, Lester was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for June. All of Lester’s critics forget that detail. Lester was 4-0 in six starts last month with a 1.41 ERA and 0.78 WHIP.
Outside of Wrigley this season, Lester is 5-2 in nine starts with a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Considering his two worst starts came on the road (San Francisco, New York), the 3.04 ERA on the road speaks volumes, something ERA seldom does, of just how good he has been this season.
The Pirates look forward to facing Lester. Clint Hurdle feels he is easy to beat because of his throwing issues. Lester is 2-1 in three starts against the Pirates this season with a 1.96 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Lester has allowed four runs on 17 hits with seven walks and 21 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.
Pirates Numbers against Jon Lester in 2016
- David Freese: 4-for-7 with two walks
- Andrew McCutchen: 2-for-8 with one walk
- Jody Mercer: 3-for-8 with one double and one home run
- Josh Harrison: 2-for-8
- Sean Rodriguez: 2-for-8
- Jung Ho Kang: 1-for-5 with one double and one walk
- Starling Marte: 1-for-5 with one walk
- Matt Joyce: 1-for-3 with one double
- Erik Kratz: 0-for-3
- Gregory Polanco: 0-for-2 with one walk
The Cubs get their first look at Chad Kuhl \cool\ in his third big league start. Kuhl beat the Dodgers and got a hit off Clayton Kershaw in his Major League debut. Kuhl is one of the many young arms in the Pirates system that figures to be a thorn in the Cubs side for many years.
Kuhl gave up two runs on seven hits with no walks to the A’s in Oakland his last time out. Kuhl struck out two over six innings and received a no-decision in a 4-2 win over the Athletics.
Before his call up, Kuhl was 6-2 in 14 starts at Triple-A Indianapolis with a 2.58 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Kuhl had 59 strikeouts and 16 walks in 76 2/3 innings while allowing 26 runs, 22 earned, on 75 hits.
No one on Joe Maddon’s team has faced Chad Kuhl in a regular season ballgame that counted.
Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …