The 26-18 Pittsburgh Pirates will welcome the struggling Chicago Cubs to Pittsburgh for a three-game series at PNC Park. This will be a big series for both the Pirates and Cubs. The Pirates will look to build on their continued success, while the Cubs will get their ace back on Tuesday night. It’s time to take a look at what this series will look like:
Game one: Matt Garza (season debut) vs Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25 ERA)
Garza has been a very good pitcher during his career, although he has had many injuries in recent seasons. The Cubs likely won’t be contending in 2013, so they are hoping Garza can perform very well and stay healthy to improve his trade value leading up to the trade deadline.
Surprisingly, the Pirates’ best performer against Garza has been Pedro Alvarez. In his career, Alvarez is 5-10 against Garza with one home run and four RBIs. If you combine all the current Pirates’ averages against Garza, it ends up with a .306 batting average, good news for the Pirates.
Rodriguez has faced the Cubs a lot, having spent his entire career in the NL Central. The Cubs’ best player, Starlin Castro, has struggled against Rodriguez, going just 4-22. The best hitter against Rodriguez on the Cubs’ roster is Scott Hairston with a .318 average and two home runs. As a team, the Cubs’ players combine for a .224 average against the veteran left-hander.
I think Rodriguez will shut the Cubs down, and the Pirates will win 5-2.
Game two: Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.49 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.64 ERA)
Samardzija has been dominant against the Pirates. The only Pirates that have hit over .300 against him are Andrew McCutchen (.308) and Jose Tabata (.333). As a team, the Pirates hit Samardzija for just a .130 average.
Liriano has been just as dominant against the Cubs’ hitters. Only Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano have hit him well, with .333 and .500 averages respectively. The team bats .135 against Liriano in a very limited sample size.
I have a hard time seeing the Pirates pull this one off against Samardzija, so the Cubs will win 3-1.
Game three: Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76 ERA) vs Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.78 ERA)
Jackson will not be this bad for the entire season, and Andrew McCutchen will look to make sure Jackson doesn’t turn his season around on Thursday. McCutchen is the only Pirate to really hit Jackson well, with a .308 average and two home runs.
Gomez doesn’t know how many starts he has left, and he is likely pitching to stay in the rotation for another turn. He has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates, but it probably won’t last. Only two Cubs, Ryan Sweeney and David DeJesus have seen him before, and only Sweeney has a hit (2-3).
I refuse to pick the Cubs to win this series, so the Pirates win this. I’ll go with a 4-3 victory.