By Jared Lankes
The Pirates had a great weekend, sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee of all places. This has propelled them ahead of the Marlins and behind the Cardinals by just 0.5 a game in the NL Wildcard standings. It’s safe to say that this weekend couldn’t have been any better for the Pirates. But now they face a great Cubs team in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have been red hot in the second half and are sure bets to take the NL Central crown. This won’t be easy for the Pirates.
Monday: Steven Brault (0-1 3.60 ERA) vs Jake Arrieta (16-5 2.62 ERA) 8:05 ET
This is a pitching matchup that looks like a mismatch on the surface. A rookie in just his third start vs one of the best pitchers in the entire MLB. Steven Brault gets the call for Gerrit Cole, who is having his elbow examined, Monday. He has been good but not great in his first two MLB starts. Nothing spectacular but good enough to keep the team in it. For the Cubs, Jake Arrieta gets the nod. He had a bad start last time he faced the Pirates just before the break. Pirates want to replicate that for sure. Steven Brault beating Jake Arrieta would be a shocker in so many ways, but anything can happen in baseball.
Tuesday: Chad Kuhl (3-1 3.50 ERA) vs Kyle Hendricks (12-7 2.19 ERA) 8:05 ET
Chad Kuhl consistently turns in good outings for the Pirates. It’s very impressive stuff he’s shown, especially as a rookie. He’s going to need his best stuff to compete with a potent Cubs lineup. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs. Beginning of the year, and throughout much of his early career, he was a fringe starter at best. However, this year he has turned in a quiet Cy Young caliber season. He has a 2.19 ERA, which is very elite and no signs of stopping. The Pirates offense is going to have major troubles you would think because everyone else does. Who knows, maybe the Pirates will get to him. It’s an uphill climb, but not all climbs are impossible.
Wednesday: Ryan Vogelsong (3-3 3.02 ERA) vs Mike Montgomery (4-5 2.60 ERA) 8:05 ET
Ryan Vogelsong’s last few starts haven’t been as flashy as his first few, but he’s been effective nonetheless. He’s still exceeding all expectations placed upon him. He’s faced a lot of challenges in his career and this start is just another one for him. Maybe he will pass this one as well. Mike Montgomery gets the ball for the Cubs. He has been pushed into the rotation because of injuries after being acquired as a reliever in July from Seattle. He’s been an effective pitcher all year and he’s a lefty to boot. The Pirates are very capable of getting runs off of him. This is the easiest test they’ll get this season, and even then it’s not an easy task.
This is a huge series for the Pirates. If they can prove they can win in Chicago, that’ll go a long way in their push for the playoffs. The pitching matchups aren’t favorable by any stretch, but they aren’t the worst either. I think the Pirates have a shot if they play like they did in Milwaukee. However, the Pirates haven’t shown consistency, so let’s see which version of team we are going to get this week.