Cubs @ Pirates Preview
This is what is happening with the Chicago Cubs (38-56) right now. The last time they crossed the plate was on Friday night, in the first game of a three-game set against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Since then, they went 25 straight innings without a run.
Combined with some bad pitching, they were swept by the defending World Championships and were outscored 23-1 in the series to kick off a six-game road trip. They drop their road records to 14-35, second worst in the National League, after the Houston Astros.
Tonight, their challenge will even be harder facing the Pittsburgh Pirates (54-40), who sit only half-a-game behind Cincinnati Reds, the division leaders.
The offensive slump should be a big concern in the Cubs clubhouse. Clean-up hitter Alfonso Soriano went hitless at seven at-bats in the last games. Although riding on a four-game hitting streak, first baseman Anthony Rizzo only batted .273 (3 for 11), all single hits and drew a walk.
The Cubs hit 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 20 runners in the three-game span.
Tonight, the Cubs lineup will face Erik Bedard (5-10, 4.55) who won his last game at Colorado giving up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander made his first career start against the Cubs this season in Pittsburgh on May 27 and won that game pitching six scoreless innings.
On the other side, Chicago will rely on Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.57). The right-hander is searching for his second win in the month of July after having pitched a no-decision last Wednesday against the Miami Marlins. He hurled five innings conceding one run, striking out nine and walking three.
The Cubs pitching staff has not been sharp lately. Relivers Justin Germano, James Russell, Manny Corpas, and Rafael Dolis combined to give up 12 runs in the infamous seventh inning in St. Louis on Saturday night. Travis Wood, who started yesterday, was responsible for all seven runs tallied by the Cardinals, including back-to-back homers to Matt Holiday and Carlos Beltran.
The Pittsburgh Pirates won their last five contests, including the series sweep against the Miami Marlins during the weekend.
In yesterday’s contest, Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run homer, his 21st of the year, in a 3-0 victory of the Pirates. Starter Jeff Karstens hurled seven scoreless innings.
Leading the National League in batting (.372), center-fielder Andrew McCutchen posted some career good numbers against Chicago; he hit .357 with six home runs and 26 RBIs in 43 games.
During the weekend, the Cubs recalled left-hand reliever Jeff Beliveau from Triple-A Iowa and demoted Dolis. Beliveau made his first appearance in Major League Sunday pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Patrick Au Yeung