After starting off their recent road trip with two wins, the Cubs proceeded to drop three of the final four games to finish a disappointing 3-3 against basement dwellers Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Chicago is now back home at Wrigley Field to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking to take advantage of this stretch of sub-.500 opponents.
Looking back on the road trip, the six games were essentially a microcosm of the 2017 season for the Cubs. There was shaky starting pitching, a late-inning blown lead by the bullpen, and a couple of games where the offense let a lot of scoring chances go by the board.
Despite those negatives, Chicago still finds itself in the exact same position it was in at this time a week ago – two games up in the division.
While the offense was all over the map last week, one player who continued his recent stretch of torrid hitting was Anthony Rizzo. Against the Reds and Phillies, the Cubs’ longest-tenured player was 9-for-22 with two home runs, eight RBI, five walks and eight runs scored.
Those numbers fall right in line with Rizzo’s overall performance in August, which has seen the slugging first baseman hit six home runs, knock in 25 runs, and post a slash line of .344/.427/.583. All of this adds up to a wRC+ of 165 so far this month for Rizzo. Not bad.
The team looking to slow Rizzo down is the Pittsburgh Pirates. It wasn’t too long ago that Pittsburgh was a team on the rise, one that made the postseason three years in a row and appeared poised to compete for years to come. That has not been the case the past couple of seasons, however, as the Pirates have scuffled once again in 2017. After climbing to the .500 mark and just three games out of first back on Aug. 11, Pittsburgh has lost 10 of 15 and now sits seven games back.
Although his team may be scuffling of late, slugging first baseman Josh Bell has had himself quite an August. In 25 games this month, Bell is slashing .354/.434/.573 with three home runs, 20 RBI and 14 walks to just eight strikeouts.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Monday, August 28 at 7:05 CT on WGN
- Tuesday, August 29 at 7:05 CT on CSN Plus
- Wednesday, August 30 at 7:05 CT on CSN
What to Watch For
- Jose Quintana has had a bit of an off year, and, although he has been relatively solid since coming over from the South Side, his up-and-down 2017 has continued with the Cubs. Outside of his outstanding debut, Quintana hasn’t quite been what many were expecting when he was acquired. Since the trade, he has a 4.50 ERA/4.11 FIP, has made it past the 6th inning just once (his debut) and has seen his HR/FB skyrocket, from 9.2 percent for his White Sox career to 18.4 percent with the Cubs.
- Pittsburgh’s starter on Tuesday has had less than stellar results against the Cubs throughout his career. Against the rest of baseball, Chad Kuhl is a solid fourth or fifth starter. But against the Cubs? Well, he suddenly morphs into a guy throwing BP. In five career starts against Chicago, Kuhl is 0-3 with a 13.20 ERA. In those five games, he has lasted just 15 innings, allowing 22 earned runs on 29 hits to go along with 12 walks, good for a 2.73 WHIP. That is…not great, Bob.
- The Cubs are not lacking for players who can man second base and that has put a bit of a squeeze on playing time for Tommy La Stella. Even though he has shuffled between Iowa and Chicago quite a bit in 2017, the 28-year-old has done nothing but hit with the parent club. Since the All-Star break, La Stella has seen his playing time increase and is making the most of it, hitting .394/.475/.788 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 33 AB in the second half. With three right-handers taking the mound for the Pirates in this series, look for La Stella and his hot bat to get at least a couple of starts.