MLB Game Preview - Cubs v Pirates

 
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4
Final 1 2 3   4 5 6   7 8 9   R H E
Chi Cubs0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 490
Pittsburgh0 0 3 0 1 0 0 1 x 580
5
  W: J. Taillon (8-8)   L: J. Lester (12-4)   S: F. Vázquez (24)
4:05 PM PT5:05 PM MT6:05 PM CT7:05 PM ET19:05 ET23:05 GMT7:05 4:05 PM MST6:05 PM EST6:35 PM VEN3:05 UAE (+1)6:05 PM CT, July 31, 2018
PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  Attendance: 18,972

Cubs aiming to keep slim NL Central lead

According to STATS
According to STATS

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

  1. The Cubs won game three of their series with the Cardinals to avoid the sweep. Chicago is 6-6 since the All-Star break with a team ERA of 5.35, up from 3.56 before the break.
  2. Javier Baez had three extra-base hits and five RBI in the three-game set with the Cards. He is one of the seven Cubs age 26 or younger who have contributed 30 or more RBI this season. This is the most such players with 30-plus RBI through July on single team in the Live-Ball Era.
  3. Jon Lester will be making his 15th career start against Pittsburgh as a member of the Cubs. He is 7-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 14 starts, winning three of the last four after giving up 10 runs in the first inning against the Bucs on July 9 of last season.
  4. Pittsburgh split four games with the Mets, putting them at 16-9 in July. Under manager Clint Hurdle -- he was hired in 2011 -- the Pirates have won 120 games in July. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers (123) have won more July games over that time period.
  5. Starling Marte is hitting .358 with seven home runs and seven stolen bases in the month of July. In the Live-ball Era (since 1920) only two other Pirates have hit five or more home runs and swiped five or more bags in July while maintaining an average above .350. (Max Carey, 1922 and Barry Bonds, 1991)
  6. The Cubs have won five of seven series (including one tied series) with the Pirates in Pittsburgh since 2016. That .786 win percentage is tied for the second best road series record against any divisional opponent in the National League over that time.
Notes Applicable For Series Dates: 7/31/2018 thru 8/1/2018

For the Chicago Cubs, one of the benefits of leading the National League and being way over .500 is a lack of tension over Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline.

Although there is speculation that Chicago (61-44) might seek a reliever, it opens a two-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park a few hours after the deadline with its sights on solidifying its hold on the NL Central and honing its game.

The Cubs maintain a slim lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central, but they have already added starter Cole Hamels -- who is scheduled to make his Chicago debut Wednesday, after All-Star Jon Lester's start Tuesday -- and reliever Jesse Chavez this month.

"We've got Jon (Lester) up next and, hopefully, he can keep this momentum," said Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who struck out eight in seven innings Sunday of a 5-2 victory over the third-place St. Louis Cardinals.

"With (Cole) Hamels, I think he'll bring a lot of energy just seeing something new out there. I think he'll lift all of us up a little bit. We can all learn from him; he's been around. I'm really excited to watch him throw on Wednesday. Hopefully, these last two months we can rattle off some good starts."

Chicago is a pedestrian 6-6 since the All-Star break, in contrast to what the Pirates have been doing.

Pittsburgh (55-52) has won 15 of its past 19 games to climb back into the wild-card race, not to mention at least being in the discussion in the division if the winning continues.

The Pirates are third in the division, seven games behind the Cubs.

"It's good. It's a good time to go at them right now," Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove said. "We're playing the best ball we have all year. Things are banging on all cylinders. The chemistry's really good in here. The energy's high. I don't think there's a better time to face them than right now.

"We know what we have here, and you see the run we went on the last two weeks. We know we're capable of putting together good games and playing good baseball."

After its two-game set with Chicago, Pittsburgh has a three-game weekend series against fourth-place St. Louis at PNC Park -- giving the Pirates five divisional games directly after the trade deadline to perhaps make a statement. The Pirates' surge has allowed them to leapfrog the Cardinals and, before Monday's games, sit four games out in the wild-card race.

"We want to respect that we're in a playoff hunt," general manager Neal Huntington said about weighing any moves the Pirates make for the rest of this season vs. the future.

Pittsburgh and Chicago were off Monday.

The Pirates will send right-hander Jameson Taillon (7-7, 3.73 ERA) against Lester (12-3, 3.06) on Tuesday.

Taillon's record belies the fact that he has allowed three earned runs or less in 11 straight starts and in 18 of his 21 starts this season. He is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs.

Chicago is 17-4 in Lester's 21 starts. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts this season against Pittsburgh.

Updated July 30, 2018

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