Cubs vs Pirates: Series Preview (7/12-7/14)


The four-game baseball hiatus is finally up and the season is ready to resume. The Cubs three All Stars didn’t do much in Cleveland, but that’s not what they get paid for. After an uneven first-half gave Chicago the slimmest of division leads, they have the chance to seize control down the final stretch.

Cubs teams under Theo Epstein have had a habit of performing well when they reach the back end of the schedule. 2018’s 40-30 second-half record was actually the worst since 2014. That proved costly as the Brewers won a one-game playoff to take the division.

Don’t be surprised to see some trades and roster shakeups to inject some life into a team just four games over .500 (47-43). The North Siders are just 16-20 since June 1st as their malaise has persisted. They look to kick off the second half with a series win against the visiting Pirates.

Pittsburgh was as much as ten games under .500 in early June, since they have climbed all the way back to 44-45. They now sit just 2.5 games behind the Cubs for first in the NL Central. The offense has roared to life thanks to the young bats of Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds. Both are hitting over .300 and are now every day starters for the surging Bucs.

Adding extra spice to the games is Joe Maddon‘s confrontation last week with the Pirates manager Clint Hurdle over repeated inside pitches on Cubs hitters. Maddon told reporters after that game this series at Wrigley should be interesting. While that is fun, Chicago has to focus on winning and not letting the division get away from them. Time is running short to get the ship righted.


Friday: 1:20 PM CT on MLB Network/NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Saturday: 1:20 PM CT on WGN/670AM

Sunday: 1:20 PM CT on ABC-7/670AM



1. Adam Frazier (L) 2B
2. Bryan Reynolds (S) LF
3. Starling Marte (R) CF
4. Josh Bell (S) 1B
5. Melky Cabrera (S) RF
6. Colin Moran (L) 3B
7. Kevin Newman (R) SS
9. Chris Archer (R) P


1. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
2. Javier Baez (R) SS
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Robel Garcia (S) 2B
9. Yu Darvish (R) P

Bullpen Usage



Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Chris Archer: Chris Archer has thrown 19,896 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2012 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and The World Baseball Classic. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (94mph) and Slider (89mph), also mixing in a Change using a Circle Change grip (88mph) and Sinker (94mph). He also rarely throws a Curve (82mph).

His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His slider is thrown extremely hard, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sliders and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders. His change is much firmer than usual. His sinker has surprisingly little armside run, has well above average velo, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers. His curve generates more 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’s home run issues continued against the Cubs in his last start. Victor Caratini and Javy Báez each took him deep, unfortunately both were solo shots and the Pirates would go on to win late. Getting runners on base should make his inevitable homers more impactful.

Jordan Lyles: Jordan Lyles has thrown 14,492 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2010 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and Spring Training. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph) and Curve using a Knuckle Curve grip (82mph), also mixing in a Slider (88mph) and Change (86mph). He also rarely throws a Sinker (92mph).

His fourseam fastball generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has essentially average velo and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers. His curve has a sharp downward bite, is slightly harder than usual, has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ curves. His slider is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is much harder than usual and has less than expected depth. His change is slightly firmer than usual and has slight armside fade. His sinker is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker.

Sean’s Note: After Lyles dominated the Cubs in April, they crushed him on July 4th. They hit three homers and plated seven runs in his five innings pitched. Kris Bryant in particular saw him well with a homer and a ground-rule double.

Trevor Williams: Trevor Williams has thrown 6,451 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2016 and 2019, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (92mph), also mixing in a Slider (83mph), Change (84mph) and Sinker (90mph). He also rarely throws a Curve (76mph).

His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, has essentially average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His slider has short glove-side cut. His change is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has slight armside fade. His sinker has slightly below average velo and has some natural sinking action. His curve (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 7 of them in 2019) generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ curves, has little depth, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ curves and has slightly below average velo.

Sean’s Note: Williams allowed five runs to the Cubs his last start including a Báez homer. Of course his Pirates teammates put up 18 runs, so his somewhat shaky outing went unnoticed. If Chicago can pitch just a bit better, scoring five on Trevor will be more successful.


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  • Be interesting to see if the Cubs lineup make Archer look like a Cy Young contender. Also, see what Darvish does. I think if one game can tell how the year is going to go this is the game.

  • Some stats/thoughts:
    - Compared to the ASB in 2018, this year's team has a worse run differential/ratio (+114/1.314 vs. +55/1.137), which is no surprise as that team had scored more and allowed fewer.

    - This year's runs allowed so far is quite close to the 2017 Cubs at the break though that team had scored 56 fewer runs at this point. After the ASB, the 2017 team was +127/1.429 while 2018 was +2/1.007.

    - This year's team is doing better when it comes to scoring 0 or 1 runs (having a 'binary' game)..infamously, it was 40 last year (19 at the break) while this year's squad is at 11.

    - The Cubs are currently 7th in MLB/2nd in the NL in terms of the runs scored/allowed ratio; the Dodgers lead both with 1.367.

    - Current projections put the Cubs at about 85-87 wins and a narrow edge in the odds of winning the division..they'd have to go 38-34 (.527) starting today to get to 85. Even as badly as the post ASB season went last year, they had a .571 winning percentage (40-30) so if this year's team replicated that, they'd go 41-31 for 88 wins..which might be enough. Playing at the Maddon era's average second half pace (.647) would result in 94 wins.

    Numbers aside, no more excuses; just win.

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    Terrance Gore was just released by KC. I say we sign him for a minimum and put him in AAA and we'll use him like last season. Again, we have very little speed on this team and he is a game changer when he's on base.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Gore is not a good baseball player.

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I know he’s not great but he is a terrific pinch runner and would come in handy in Sept and playoffs.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    We don't need pinch runners!!!!!

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Pinch runners aren't the f problem.

  • is back again and am glad to see it.....never been much for this all-star week diversion. I don’t think we as fans have become jaded, or spoiled to say but......we know bad baseball when we see it and this team has played too much badddddd baseball. I don’t think alot of changes are necessary, what I do think is these guys need to start finally playing up to their capability. We need to rip off a 9-1 or 12 out of 15’s time.


    we're on a roll! Onward and upward!

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Did I hear a Narnia reference?

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    You could say---Down goes Frazier!
    Down goes Frazier!

  • I get that Archer is seemingly throwing the ball pretty well but this cubs offense isn't inspring much confidence. Archer's struggled mightily on the road all season leave it to the cubs to make him look like Justin Verlander

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    It is one time through the order after a four day break for most. Get him the second time around.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Well let’s try the third time through.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I hope the 3rd times the charm but I was hoping for much more now that lack of off days is no longer an excuse. I feel if they get past Rizzo/Contreras then the lineup just isn't gonna generate offense.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Meaning this offense just isn't getting consistent overall production from the bottom of the order. Not just talking recently I get the offense including the middle of the order is struggling lately, but I mean all year.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Yeah, but as you see, it isn't just the cubs coming back from the break not hitting. Houston was shut out last night by Lance Lynn and Pittsburgh isn't ripping the cover off the ball either.

    I do agree the of the order is a problem and I have come to think that anytime you have Albert and the pitcher back to back the bottom isn't going to be anything to write home about. I just wish Albert would realize that the way pitchers pitch him, if he continues to try and rip the ball down the left field line, he will never hit for any kind of average at all.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Verlander at least allows homers. Cubs got nothin. Still on ASG break I guess.

  • In reply to stix:

    Well there’s one homer

  • People have been saying the front office draft strategy was to draft hitters in the first round. Looking over their picks I see only one good hitter they have drafted. That is Bryant. The others are not very good players.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    There is a big difference between drafting hitters and having “good “ hitters.:)

  • In reply to stix:

    Is kind of ironic you answer 2016 with that answer.

  • In reply to stix:

    Not sure what you mean. The Cubs have only hit on one good player in the first round with this FO.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I didn’t disagree with the good hitter portion of your comment but you said they draft hitters and I was just pointing out that there’s a difference between a hitter and a “good’ hitter.

  • And when Albert and Descalso are back to back....ruh roh

  • I guess 6 shutout innings aren't even good enough to get Darvish a decision. My goodness I feel like hitting Descalso is really no better then hitting the pitcher. I get Maddon doesn't have the deepest bench but with the pitchers spot leading off and being a pivotal batter in that inning doesn't Bote or Russell make more sense?

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think if either one of them was a lefty they would have gotten the call. Great job by Yu though.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Why is Dedonewithbaseball still on the team?
    We should let Barely pinch hit if we're going to throw Delasco out there............

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    In reply to Treebeard:

    that was hilarious,,, I would definitely rather see Barley Pop hit in that spot than De crappo,,,

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Agreed it's interesting to me because Darvish said to the suntimes that this is the best he's ever felt on the mound, despite the frustrating results. Hopefully this is the start of a nice run for him good to see him pitch well at home

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    If they hold the lead Cishek gets the win facing one batter.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Having Descalso hit is no better than having the pitcher hit. What it does though is it prevents Maddon from using him to pitch hit with runners on base.

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    As I write this there are bases loaded no outs in the 7th. If we want to win the Central we have to score more runs and win this game.
    Why didn’t the runners move up? Maybe taking it very safe, we’ve had so many base running mistakes in the first half that influenced them.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Caratini is no gazelle and Bell could have cut the throw off. They’ve gone to caution versus running into outs. For today caution is working.

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    Nice 7th inning we're having!

  • Nice 7th inning by this offense. Also nobody has given Kris Bryant props for coming up with a big clutch home run off a starting pitcher that was dealing. Great to see from KB. He said despite his numbers that he's pissed off by his 1st half, especially his numbers with RISP. But overall his numbers are there and he's having a nice comeback season at the plate. Hopefully this is the start of a nice 2nd half for him.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Night and day difference too between the RF team defense is a added benefit......

  • Nice 7th. That third go around on Archer served us well.

    Schwarber with a sub 700 OPS with RISP. Really hate seeing him up there unless its the 8th or 9th with no one on. Solo HR king.


  • There's 2 Cubs to include in a trade (Schwarber and Strop)

  • This type of stuff just can't happen if this were a serious contender. I hate to say it but if they lose this game I can't think of a more deflating loss this season. I'm officially starting to question whether this cubs organization needs to make moves with more of an eye towards the future rather then the present.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    And despite Strop getting the blame to me this all starts with Kyle Schwarbers pure inability to hit with RISP in the bottom of the 7th. I'd have no issues whatsoever replacing him at some point down the line he's not good enough to be called a core player to me.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    If we could get the shift banned, he and Rizzo would bat .325............

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    This isn't the first time this year that Strop has given up the lead.

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    Turn out the lights, the party’s over...

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Nah. We got this.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    We do.....we really do.

  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: visiting players should not be allowed to hit baseballs onto our streets.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I second that.

  • Tough move there, hard to say if Rosario would've given up that homerun to Marte or not.......has anyone heard anything about Morrow?

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    Morrow is in Arizona but I doubt that he’s available this year.he has thrown some bullpens but no rehab assignments have been considered.

  • One more time. Ol bang-bang does it again.

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    Strop looked and acted like a clown out there , how do you allow it to get to Marte with a chance to tie it in that situation?? Just horrible

  • In reply to John Nesbit:

    Just how long will it take Maddon to realize that you CAN'T TRUST Strop any longer in close games?
    He has been unreliable for quite awhile now. Both Kinzler and Cishek are clearly better this year.
    Cubs need a better manager.

  • Oh boy, Schwarber leading off again. Is he the only option we have?

  • This home ump must be late for Happy Hour.

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    i really hope kimbrell doesnt come into a tie game now,,,

  • C'mon, Jason. We need this now.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thank you. And Bryant is such an awesome baserunner.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Interesting note: we are 3 for 5 in today's game with RISP, but that was the first run we scored. Goes back to some of the earlier comments on this post about being cautious, and highlights KB's baserunning prowess.

  • Bahahhahahaaa.......oh HELL yea!

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    Great send to get KB home. I lost my head before. This is the team I love, the one that shows heart and ability and talent.
    2 outs to go.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Did Butterbur send Bryant? I'm assuming he did, but you can't really see him............

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    In reply to Treebeard:

    I think so--but Bryant looked like he was going to try and score as soon as he started running. Butter did what he does with Javy, looks and hope he scores.

  • We got Kimbrel.

  • W!

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    Easy peasy. No drama Mama!
    Cubs win!

  • Rizz is sooo good defensively.

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    well that was fun!! great play Bote to Riz,,, good teams win games just like this ,, shrug off a game tying homer and win the game anyway,,,, these are the cubs i remember,,, great game j Hey

  • "Hey, hey, holy mackerel,
    no doubt about it,
    the Cubs are on their way!
    The Cubs are gonna hit today
    they're gonna pitch today
    they're gonna field today
    come what may,
    the Cubs are gonna win today!
    Hey, hey holy mackerel
    no doubt about it
    The Cubs are on their way
    They've got the hustle
    they've got the muscle
    the Chicago Cubs are on their way!"

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    I can hear the crowd. That's a perfect response to the end of the game BP. Congrats.

  • Yu twirled am absolute gem. I know a lot of people here don’t like him , but that was magnificent. Send strop packing. I know a lot of people will claim thru their numbers that he is great. The eye test and numbers should remind you he stinks. Great 5 years from him but I don’t want to see him any more.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    Strop has three blown saves but the cubs have won two of those games. In the 13 games since he’s back from his injury he’s allowed runs in three of them. Not great so maybe he should move out of the eight inning spot and try Kintzler until Strop hopefully gets more consistent.

    Last year most wanted Kintzler gone, now he’s the reliever he was with the Twins. Relief pitchers generally have up and down years/ stretches..

  • In reply to stix:

    Time to find new Strop. Did us great, but that is over.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    He's a free agent, so we'll see. As stix said, relievers are volatile, but Strop has given us tremendous service. If he continues through this year and walks, I'll tip (or twist) my cap and say thank you, Pedro.

    BTW, Oldno7, I'm not ready to consider us friends, but I am encouraged seeing you post baseball thoughts. That's what we do here. and you're seeing you get much more positive feedback by doing so.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks BP. I appreciate it. Lotta people here share the love of cubs baseball and John’s creation of this site. Yourself and many people share the knowledge and passion of the game

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    You're welcome. I admit I am a nut who goes off the rails probably more than anyone else here. But it's all positive, with respect to the integrity of this site and my fellow Denizens. Let's have fun and talk baseball.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    You will soon

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    I hope so.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    Thanks for keeping it about baseball with your recent posts oldno. I know personally I’ve also had issues with posters on this site before. I can also say that for plenty of current and former old cubs den posters. But at the end of the day we’re all passionate cub fans here.

    I haven’t given up on strop he was seemingly returning to form recently, as he has been trying to regain his form off a fairly serious injury. But I admit his velocity this year has clearly declined, and it makes me wonder if this is his last year as a cub. Now I do wonder if that velocity decline is in part trying to rebound from earlier season injuries. But his possible decline is certainly something that the organization needs to keep an eye on. He’s not exactly in his prime anymore at 34 years old

  • Jonathan, I guess you and I are the only ones who see Gore’s value. You are right to sign him, but I bring him in now to replace DeScalso. You have Bote and Russell and Garcia so you do not need Daniel De. And Zobrist will be coming later.
    Another comment. Bryant’s baserunning versus Almora’s in the Sunday night game. He took three jump steps off second and didn’t even look at Butter, who I consider to be Toast as a Third Base Coach. Almora was flatfooted and sacrificed a key run.
    Base running IS meaningful in tight games down the stretch which is the rationale for bringing in Terence Gore, now.
    We also saw the difference between Robel Garcia’s approach and Kyle Schwarber’s. Yes, Garcia struck out twice on tough Archer pitches, but he hit a bullet deep enough to right to bring in Rizzo. Schwarber’s passivity at the plate contrasted with Garcia in his fifth game who smacked the first good pitch for a sac fly. He may be our next left fielder.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I wasn’t in favor of trading our struggling players for a billy Hamilton or someone that can’t hit like that. But now that gores a FA I say absolutely get him on a minors deal. He’s practically like an automatic stolen base and is a nice fit for the cubs bench

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    He has been thrown out 5 times this year.
    Get a good baseball player not someone that is fast.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I’m not in favor of trading say happ for anyone like gore or Hamilton as some have suggested (in fact I think that idea is incredibly stupid). I only meant if you could get gore on minors deal as a sept callup. In general I’m not one of the guys that is super obsessive about this narrative that a light hitting speedster will solve the cubs issues. But I do like someone like that when benches expand

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I agree kkhiavi, 100%.

  • One more point. If Gore had pinch run for Caratini in the 7th, I think the Cubs score 4 that inning.

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    In reply to Swarf:

    Thank you. Gore is a specialist and now, especially with runs at a premium, we need to have someone who can make a difference. Also, you're right about the 7th. Maybe we even score more than that. We need to score and that means Gore.

  • Thx. And same to Yu! Lol. I see pedro’s Whip is online with his career numbers. I just think Pedro belongs with Napoleon dynamite and not with the professional baseball team Chicago Cubs.

  • Has anyone noticed that Rizzo has not homered since June 15 and only has 7 rbi since then? He’s definitely a streaky hitter but if that were Descalso he be tarred and feathered on this site. When do we get concerned about him?

  • In reply to stix:

    He's been in a slump. And he's still .273/.385/.517. Bote has been in a slump ( signs he's coming out of it) and he still .251/.339/.434. If that's when they're struggling I have no complaints.

  • If this is the Darvish we're going to see a lot more of I'm removing Bryant from current trade consideration. If he reverts to a #5? He had a good day. Let's think positive.

    Caught some of the game on the radio and it was a hoot to hear the YUUUU calls. Hope he enjoyed it. It's been a while for him.

    Lester should be their 3. If Hamels comes back strong and Darvish makes this a trend the Cubs could be tough down the stretch. A lot of if's. But. Nice clean game defensively. No little league moments scattered about.

    They need to show more but it's a step in the right direction. Getting through a week without handing a couple of games away would be a good beginning. Though Strop came close. Kudo's to the offense for picking him up.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    What if Bryant goes 0 for 4 today is he back on your trade list?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    His performance wasn't relevant to my thinking. Yu's was. He was signed to be a TOR guy. Yesterday was the first real sign that was still possible. Sure he's had some high K outings but he hasn't been able to hold a lead and so on.

    Going into this season my hope was that he'd be back on track. Hamels, Darvish, Lester, Hendricks & Quintana looked formidable on paper.

    I saw Bryant as the only player that was going to get a young TOR power arm in return. Though regardless of what happens they need to prepare to move him going into the '21 season at the latest. You don't want a rental return for him.

    That's operating under the belief he's not going to be re-signed and other players are. Of the big 4 core guys at least one has to be dealt. The projected payroll to keep them all and have playoff caliber rotation and closer isn't happening.

  • Probably couldn’t have asked for a better day than yesterday with the Cubs coming back to win and everyone else in the Central losing.
    Let’s get a series for a change!

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