By Jared Lankes
Pirates had another disappointing series in New York, losing the last two after Jameson Taillon’s gem powered them on Tuesday. Now, the team heads to Chicago to face the best team in the league by far. What’s worse is that this is a Pirates team that just fell to .500, and this suddenly becomes as important of a June series you can have. This series could shift the Pirates momentum back to good or put them in an even deeper free fall than they already are in.
Friday: Jake Arrieta (10-1 1.86 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (4-6 4.92 ERA) 2:20 ET
It’s the good, old afternoon Friday game in Chicago that everyone both loves and hates. However, there’s nothing to hate about this game if you are a Cubs fan because Jake Arrieta hits the mound. He brings his 1.86 ERA into this game and has been absolutely masterful against the Pirates. On the other hand, Francisco Liriano has good career numbers against the Cubs, but got pounded on his last trip to Wrigley. Liriano needs to turn the page on that and turn the page on his struggles this season.
Saturday: Jon Lester (8-3 1.89 ERA) vs Jon Niese (6-3 4.60) 8:15 ET
The Pirates continue to look down the chopping block at pitchers in this stretch as Jon Lester is absolutely no slouch. Despite not being able to throw to first, he’s been great all year, as numbers suggest as well. It took an amazing performance by Gerrit Cole to beat him the last time Lester faced the Pirates. The key is for the Pirates to reach vs Lester, so they can steal off of him. Though, David Ross, Lester’s personal catcher, is one of the best at preventing base runners from stealing off Lester. As for Jon Niese, he was riding a good stretch until he hit a block last time out against the Cardinals. It’ll be important for him to establish his pitches early and do what made him so good for a handful of starts in a row.
Sunday: Kyle Hendricks (4-6 3.05 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (1-0 1.93 ERA) 8:08 ET
Kyle Hendricks is the “worst” of the Cubs starting pitchers. A 3.05 ERA for the worst starting pitcher on the club is quite something. Many teams would take that for their ace. That’s how good that rotation has been. Hendricks has really improved over the years and has been a great asset to the Cubs, who didn’t give up on him too soon. He will be opposed by Jameson Taillon, who sparkled on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the 8th in just his second start in the MLB. He ended up going eight, giving up just two hits. This Cubs lineup is a whole different horse though, and this will be a nationally televised game. We will see how Taillon does handling all of that.
Pirates offense is going to have a tough time, but their pitching might get it worse. This Cubs team has very few holes, which makes them so tough to beat. A series win would be a great way to get this team on track. Most think that’s not possible, but baseball is a crazy game where anything can happen.