After losing three of five games to Miami and Cincinnati to start the season, Chicago rebounded to take three of four against division rival Milwaukee over the weekend. The Cubs’ offense had some issues against the Brewers, but in the end did enough. The real standout in the series, however, was the Chicago pitching staff, which limited Milwaukee to seven runs over four games.
With the long opening road trip behind them, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for the first time in 2018 and will take on the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates come into this series on a roll, having won seven of the first nine games to take an early two-game lead in the NL Central. Despite on offseason that saw the loss of stalwarts Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh has taken advantage of a relatively light early-season schedule that has featured rebuilding Detroit and Cincinnati, along with Minnesota.
The absence of McCutchen has given Gregory Polonco an opportunity to take the spotlight and he has run with it so far. Through the first week and a half of the season, Polonco is slashing .310/.447/.759 with three home runs and an impressive 0.6 fWAR.
On the pitching side, Jameson Taillon has assumed the role of staff ace. Like Polonco, Taillon is off to an outstanding start, as he is 2-0 with 1.26 ERA and 2.33 FIP
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Monday, April 9 at 2:20 CTTuesday, April 10 at 1:20 CT on ABC 7 and MLB Network (out-of-market only)
- Wednesday, April 11 at 7:05 p.m. CT on WGN
- Thursday, April 12 at 1:20 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network (out-of-market only)
What to Watch For
- The first game of the series seems like the perfect time for Joe Maddon to go heavy with left-handed bats. After joining the Pirates at the 2016 trade deadline, Nova has allowed lefties to hit .307/.339/.502 with a wOBA of .354. His struggles have been even worse on the road, with lefties crushing him to the tune of .324/.358/.567 with a wOBA of .386.
- Since making his MLB debut in 2015, Kris Bryant has absolutely destroyed Pittsburgh pitching. In 53 games against the NL Central foes, Bryant has hit .376/.492/.639 with 10 home runs and a wRC+ of 200. With the fast start Bryant has gotten off to this season, the Pirates’ pitching staff could be in for a long series.
- After saying goodbye to some familiar faces in the offseason, the new-look Cubs bullpen has been among the best in baseball in the early going. Through the first nine games, Chicago relievers have combined for a 0.94 ERA, 2.16 FIP and a major-league-leading 1.1 fWAR, a full 0.4 higher than the next team on the list. The Cubs have been able to put up these numbers by limiting hard contact to 17.2 percent (MLB best), while inducing soft contact at a 30.1 percent clip (also MLB best).