Cubs vs Pirates: Series Preview (9/24-9/27)


A successful road trip has reduced the Cubs magic number to win the NL Central to just five games. Chicago had four lopsided wins sandwiched around two blowout losses. The offense finally showed some signs of life, scoring four or more runs in five of six games.

The Northsiders look to wrap up their third consecutive division title against the Pittsburgh Pirates who come to Wrigley for four games. The Bucs, who have been out of the playoff race for a while, would love to play spoiler to their division rivals.

The starting pitching has been quite good in Western Pennsylvania in 2018. Trevor Williams has been the ace of the staff, but all the starters have been solid. The offense has struggled, as has the bullpen, which  helps to explain the disappointing record.

Even a 4-3 record over the final seven games of the season means the Brewers have to be perfect to win the Central. With Milwaukee and the other Wild Card leaders in St. Louis playing three head-to-head games, the Cubs are guaranteed a playoff spot. Winning the division and securing home-field advantage is a big deal. Time for Chicago to take care of business and get ready for October baseball.


Monday: 7:05 pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Tuesday: 7:05 pm CT on MLB Network/WGN/670AM

Wednesday: 7:05 pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Thursday: 7:05 pm CT on MLB Network/NBC Sports Chicago/670AM



1. Adam Frazier (L) 2B
2. Pablo Reyes (R) RF
3. Josh Bell (S) 1B
5. Corey Dickerson (L) LF
6. Jose Osuna (R) 3B
7. Jordan Luplow (R) CF
8. Kevin Newman (R) SS


1. Daniel Murphy (L) 2B
2. Ben Zobrist (S) RF
3. Javier Baez (R) SS
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
6. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
7. Jason Heyward (L) CF
8. Cole Hamels (L) P
Bullpen Usage

Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Jameson TaillonJameson Taillon has thrown 6,547 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2012 and 2018, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (96mph) and Sinker (96mph), also mixing in a Curve (83mph) and Slider (90mph). He also rarely throws a Change (89mph).

His fourseam fastball generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has less armside movement than typical and has well above average velo. His sinker is blazing fast, has less armside run than typical and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers. His curve generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves, is much harder than usual and has a sharp downward bite. His slider is thrown extremely hard, has less than expected depth and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His change is thrown extremely hard, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight cut action.

Sean's Note: Taillon has had a very good season for the Pirates. He has a high strikeout to walk ratio and doesn't give up a lot of home runs. Left handed hitters fare much better against him than do righties. Jameson has faced the Cubs twice in 2018, allowing four runs in 12.2 innings pitched.

Chris ArcherChris Archer has thrown 18,421 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2012 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and The World Baseball Classic. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Slider (89mph) and Fourseam Fastball (95mph), also mixing in a Change using a Circle Change grip (88mph) and Sinker (95mph). He also rarely throws a Curve (82mph).

His slider is thrown extremely hard, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders and has some two-plane movement. His fourseam fastball has slightly above average velo, has slightly less natural movement than typical and has some added backspin. His change is much firmer than usual. His sinker has well above average velo, has less armside run than typical and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker. His curve generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves, is much harder than usual, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has primarily 12-6 movement.

Sean's Note: Archer has been disappointing since the Pirates acquired him in a July trade with Tampa. He still strikes out an above average number of hitters but he gives up 40% hard contact. So when the ball is put in play, it is getting hit hard. A high BABIP and only stranding 71% of runners might make his numbers look worse than they should be.

Ivan NovaIvan Nova has thrown 17,236 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2010 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and the MLB Postseason. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Sinker (93mph) and Fourseam Fastball (94mph), also mixing in a Curve (81mph) and Change (87mph). He also rarely throws a Slider (82mph).

His sinker has an obvious tail, has slightly above average velo and has some natural sinking action. His fourseam fastball has some natural sinking action, has essentially average velo and has slight armside run. His curve has primarily 12-6 movement, has little depth, is slightly harder than usual and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves. His change is much firmer than usual and has slight armside fade. His slider has exceptional depth, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders and has primarily 12-6 movement.

Sean's Note: Not sure what else to say about Ivan, the Cubs face him a lot. I feel like I've broken him down like 50 times, probably is more like eight, feels like 50. He doesn't strike out many batters and lefties hit him slightly better than righties. Nova continues to dominate the Cubs, allowing just five runs in 19.1 innings against them in 2018.

Trevor WilliamsTrevor Williams has thrown 5,258 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2016 and 2018, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (92mph), also mixing in a Sinker (89mph), Slider (82mph) and Change (84mph). He also rarely throws a Curve (76mph).

His fourseam fastball has less armside movement than typical, has some natural sinking action and has essentially average velo. His sinker has below average velo, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has some natural sinking action. His slider has short glove-side cut and has some two-plane movement. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups. His curve (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 6 of them in 2018) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' curves, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves, has little depth and has slightly below average velo.

Sean's Note: Williams has been outstanding for the Pirates this season. He has a very low strike out rate but also a very low home run rate. He has a batting average on balls in play well below league average, so luck is probably also a factor in his 3.04 ERA. He has no big splits, right handed and left handed hitters have almost identical numbers against him. The Cubs have been baffled by Williams scoring just two runs in 13 innings against him this season.




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  • fb_avatar

    Oh yay. Murphy playing 2b and at lead off. Wtf Joe. Murphy at 2nd is bad enough, but at least have KB lead off instead of batting 6th. KB is a way better option at lead off than Murphy. OBP, baserunning, speed, etc.

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    In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Not trying to jinx Baez, but a 3 hit 1 walk 2 rbi night would be great. It seems like 1 game he doesn't do well, but the next game he lights it up. Keep it up Javy, get that MVP & most importantly put the Cubs in a position to win.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I can't argue the other points, but Murphy being such a poor defender is one of the reasons he leads off. He gives a professional AB and by hitting first he can get a few AB's as quickly as possible before being pulled for a defensive substitution. I expected to see this strategy played out nearly every postseason game: Baez at SS, Murphy at 2B and leading off, and Russell coming in to SS sliding Baez to 2B as soon as Murphy got that third AB. That plan has probably changed. Maybe now Bote just replaces Murphy at 2B?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think we'll see Zobrist move to 2b as defensive replacement, pushing Heyward from CF to RF, and then add Almora or Happ to CF when we need to get in the defensive alignment. Bote works at 2b as well. I think we'll see Joe manage it situationally depending on who's available in opposing bullpens.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Lots of options but we all seem to agree with the quick Murphy AB's before being pulled. Until the WS, that is, when he can simply DH for a few games. :)

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Haha... agree, Murph for WS DH! Laughing because we both just replied to each other here at the same time.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yea bote will replace murphy. He has the best range of the remaining 2b not named baez.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Not so sure that would happen if our opponent is RHRP heavy. Bote and his .218/.279/.363/.642 line against RHP is not very impressive. Also, Zobrist surprisingly has a slightly higher range factor and hasn't made an error at 2nd base this season in his 389.2 innings there (way more than Bote).

    Everything for Bote is small sample size and trending downward. I think most people emphatic wanting for more of Bote is very emotionally based on his 2 game winning HRs more than anything else. He hasn't been bad on defense, but he's no gold glove. He's made 3 errors at 2b and 3b in just about the exact amount of innings Ben has played 2nd and not made any errors, again with the stats showing that Zobrist's range factor is every so slightly higher than Bote's.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    KB has struggled lately. Maybe batting 6th will take some pressure off
    of Kris.

  • We haven't clinched a WC spot vs. the Rockies, have we? I think our magic number vs. Rockies is two, so even if Bucs sweep St. Louis, we are not yet "guaranteed" a playoff spot. We can clinch a post season spot with a win tonight AND a Rockies loss to the Phillies.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Brewers, not Bucs

  • fb_avatar

    ok sports fans I have a question for you. When was the last time the cubs and bears were both in first place at the same time?

  • In reply to Rick Rariden:


  • fb_avatar

    Okay thanks! Having a hard time deciding who to root for in the Brewers-Cards game. Relly would love to see the brewers lose but i can't find it in me to ever root for the Cardinals.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Rick Rariden:

    B2B2B 16+ inning affairs

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    And a two-week case of food poisoning for everyone one both teams not named Fowler. He's a good, charitable guy, so I'm sure he'd donate his meal so Braun could have seconds.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    You may get your wish Jim and it very well may come back to bite Counsell cuz he is burning through that bullpen tonight and now they have a rain delay....

  • I'm pulling for the cubs and cards to win the next 2 games.Magic number would be 1 after that.Then it won't matter cubs win brewers or cards lose it's over.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I'm with you bolla. More importantly, the Cubs just need to keep winning. They don't have to worry about what others do. Let us fans be concerned about all the scenarios... So let's hope the Cubs win the next 3 while the Cards win at least the next 2. Then everybody can relax.

    I'm really rooting for some sort of extra playoff to see who gets the wildcard spots, or even for the Cards and Crew to be tied at seasons end so they can play a play-in game to see who gets the home advantage of the wild card game. Hell, why not even have the Dodgers, Rockies, Brew Crew, and Cardinals all end with the same record. That way the Dodgers and Rockies still have to play for the division winner, but then the remaining 3 would have to do some sort of playoff to see which 2 win the wild card spots. And then who would get the home advantage? That would be EPIC!

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Yup, BUT unfortunately this game isn't starting off the way I hoped. A 2-0 deficit is like 7-0 vs this offense.

  • In reply to bolla:

    ...especially with Taillon on the hill. The Pirates have some really nice SP. I think it will be a task for the Cubs to do better than split this series. Which leads me right back to be being happy in rooting for the Cardinals to win only 2 of 3 from the Crew.

  • Time to moveHamels down in the rotation or to the BP. He’s getting tired.

  • In reply to stix:

    I'm not watching now, got Pat and Ron, so I don't have the screen graphics. The biggest reason for Hamels resurgence was a 2-3 MPH uptick in his FB velocity. It actually started with his last couple starts in TX. He had a clunker his last outing but I haven't checked the velocity data from that one. The point is keep an eye on that radar gun. If he's 93-95 all is good, but he dips into the low 90's bad things happen.

  • I wonder if the Hamels of the Rangers is returning. Not a good start tonight.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Reports of Hamels' regression are grossly exaggerated.

  • fb_avatar

    Had Hamels regressed back to his norm? I just tuned in and it’s already 2-0. Cole has not been good lately after being practically unhittable when he first got here. Now if he can keep the Bucs to 2 runs I think we win, but any more and that’s a big hole.
    So far 2 hard hit balls and 2 outs.
    Javy is going to have an extra base hit tonight.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Honestly it was more of the last time out. He got hit with a two out rally capped by a familiar Cubs killer. The line results hasn't been great the last 7 innings or so of Hamels, but it has been really just these blips popping up. Not sure that makes it better or worse, but it is certainly an interesting trend to puzzle over with a small sample size.

  • I'm watching the game about 5 mins behind, but glad to hear Kelly Crull say the team has no plans to celebrate clinching a playoff spot. I was thinking about that last night, and couldn't think of a scenario where I'd be celebrating if it's this close and still trying to nail down the home advantage. That will be the proper time to celebrate.

  • Ok, somebody’s gotta explain to me what the hell Counsell is doing

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I'd check Kato Kaitlin's twitter feed. He has some rational Brewers insight.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Bahahahahhaha yea buddy :)

  • Hamels with the hr!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hamels to his teammates: "Sorry for that 1st inning, boys. Let me make it up to you."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Tell you what.....Cervelli almost hit the fire house on the fly with that one....

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    And it bounced off the roof of an illegally parked car. Karma.

  • Looks like Cole has just been here just long enough to know that if you want some run support, sometimes you have to do it all by yourself.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I just really wish I would've just used the word "just," just a couple more times.

  • 437 happy feet.

  • Is it worth playing KB the way he’s currently hitting or should they move Bote or Happ. into the lineup?

  • Strop played catch and did some agility drills today, and says he expects to be pitching by the end of the week. That sounds a bit ambitious, but yes please.

  • fb_avatar

    64 pitches thru 5 innings is unacceptable for a 1st class offense. What happened to my Cubs team that put the pressure immediately on the starting pitcher and didn't let up until he was out of the game..........

    Seems like 16-17, a pitcher would be lucky to be thru 3 w 60 pitches ( even if we didn't have a crooked number on the board)........ besides the hitting coach, whats changed?

  • Big spot there. Zo is the guy I want up in that situation. Didn't work out.

  • fb_avatar

    Wow. Bryant looked terrible on that at bad and then in the top of the frame w his D and awful throw into the stands

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Kris hasn't looked good these last few games, misplaying two balls in left field the other day and he doesn't look right batting. I would rather see Bote manning 3rd base.

  • fb_avatar

    Huge 2 out run. Error comes back to get us

    We better not lose by 1

  • And all of the extra pitches Hamels has had to throw because of that error.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Wish Joe would just leave Caratini in to catch Hamels the rest of the way.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Bryant's shoulder is hurt. He is playing through it at far less than 100%. It sucks but expecting MVP KB any time this season is setting yourself up for disappointment.

    I love KB and have described him as not a baseball rat but a baseball robot. For all the good that comes from that high praise, I also wonder if not being able to do his one singular favorite thing, hit a baseball, may affect the rest of his game. This is not a dig, just my opinion and trying to get into the head of someone with more baseball complexities than I can possibly comprehend.

  • fb_avatar

    We have the players we want coming up. Be patient like Rizzo. Don’t get greedy and hit the other way if ouches there.ouch!!

  • fb_avatar

    We haven’t seen El Mago for a while. How about a pitch getting away.

  • fb_avatar

    Come on Heyward....... 1 time hit a HR.

    Where has all your power gone?

    The pitcher has more pop in his bat then you

  • fb_avatar

    Who would of ever thought that you would want to see Heyward up in a crucial situation instead of Bryant. Bryant is the mover over-hyped player in all of MLB.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    English please.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    The Cardinals:

    Hit the ball......check
    Pitch the ball..check
    Catch the ball............OH HELL NO

  • fb_avatar

    Whats the use of all that muscle, height, strength, long limbs for leverage if you can't do nothing but hit ground balls w it?

  • What a treat, watching JHey taking strike three down the middle of the plate.

  • Another Cub batter stands and watch a strike 3 go by. You've got to be swinging if it's close. You can't leave it up to the Ump.

  • Man this cubs offense is starting to seriously scare me.

  • fb_avatar

    Still a week left, but now you fellas know why I didn't get even a little excited ( about the offense) after 2 games in the desert.

    We should have piss pounded the white sox this weekend. One of the games we had plenty of opportunities ( like the majority of the season) but couldn't come up w the knock w RISP. Lucky they are who we thought they were.........

  • fb_avatar

    We have RISP and can’t do anything, they get hits.
    Milw up 2-1 with bases still loaded in the 6th.

  • fb_avatar

    Least we getting my 1 small wish......... we wont be losing by 1 run

  • This is the most pathetic offensive showing this year. Will someone grab Maddon and tell him to put Bode at 3rd base.

  • fb_avatar

    The rockies offense looked a little lost and wasn't producing any HRs or much at all for about 10 days ago or so, but they kept grinding ( w good pitching) and found other ways to score.

    Now they seems to be getting their mojo back. I was hoping something like that was going to happen on the N Side after the off day n next 2 series.

  • Hader just gave up 2 homers.....Cards up 4-3

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Wickdipper:

    Thats a blessing....... I think

    Hader is starting to show that he is indeed Human.

    I think Cards winning 2 of 3 and us sweeping the bucs or winning 3 of 4 is what we should be looking for.

  • Going into the 8th. We're going to win this game.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I am with you......we are due for some late inning wrigley magic.

    How are we going to get it started......a bloop n a blast? B2B jacks?

    Or what we been looking for, just walk, knock, knock, walk, knock, walk, knock, knock, knock w a bunch of pitching changes mixed in

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Bloop and a blast.

  • Every team in the NL Playoff Race is hitting and scoring runs except the Cubs.

  • fb_avatar

    Chilli Davis for hitting coach of the year.

    Why couldn't our new hire do what he was supposed to? Make good offensive players better w minor tweaks.

    Need an example. We all know about how poor the Redsox offense was last year esp power wise, and how great they are doing this year. BUT.....

    Boston hires Tim Hyers and he makes some minor changes to a number of hitters most notably a very good player in Mookie Betts. He turned an all star into a superstar MVP candidate. Yea, those are atypical results, but its not just Mookie. The majority of the redsox hitters have taken strides this year.

    How does a team thats not only employing Edwin Jackson but throwing him out there every 5th day clinch a dang playoff spot before us?

    Baseball is a funny game sometimes. I guess thats why it keeps us all coming back........ searching for answers......

  • Maybe that day off thru the Cubs off track !

  • 5th straight game vs Pirates with 1 run via the HR. Can’t hit Pittsburgh pitchers.

  • Schwarb was trying to hit into a second double play but there were already two outs.

  • Well that sucked.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The short version of my recap.

  • Tonight's official line score:

    Bucs: 5
    Cubs: Did not show up

    Welp, let's even it up tomorrow.

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