As the baseball world stands at this moment on a Friday afternoon, the Pirates are OK. They’re not in a playoff position and they’re not really in striking distance in the NL Central, but they’ve won a bunch of games lately, are within three games of the second Wild Card, and are beginning to sort out their pitching problems in a way that could put them miles beyond where they were in the first half.
The Cubs are sort of in the opposite place; they’re still sitting way above the rest of the NL Central, and they’re still one of baseball’s best teams, but they’ve played horribly lately. In July, they’ve been swept by the Mets and have currently lost three in a row to the Reds and Braves, who are very bad at baseball. The pitching matchups in this series do not favor the Pirates (it looks like Liriano/Kuhl/Niese vs. Arrieta/Lester/Lackey), but maybe that won’t matter with the way the Cubs have played lately. Dexter Fowler is out for the weekend and, as mentioned, the Cubs are just sort of a mess lately.
I personally am not going to play the 8.5/7.5/6.5 game this weekend; for the Pirates to really keep pace with the Cardinals, Mets, and Dodgers, they need to win series, and so I want two wins in three games. The opportunity is there in a way that maybe it wasn’t the first few times the Pirates have met the Cubs. The Pirates need to seize every opportunity that presents itself to them in this second half.
Liriano and Arrieta. Josh Bell is apparently in Pittsburgh to pinch-hit and not play over Jaso, which is fine. It would be great to see the Pirates beat Arrieta for once.