CUBS (57-47) vs PIRATES (61-43)
CHC Jon Lester (6-8 , 3.26 ERA) vs PIT Francisco Liriano (7-6, 2.92 ERA)
The Chicago Cubs winners of five straight come into the three game series, four games behind the Pirates for the top wildcard spot and get to avoid Gerrit Cole.
Tonight’s series opens up with an excellent pitching matchup.
Jon Lester takes the mound tonight for the Cubs and was dominant in the month of July, going 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA, pitching at least seven innings in all six games. Lester posted a 50/5 K/BB ratio in 43.1 innings as the Cubs ace appears to be hitting his stride after a slow start with Chicago.
In his latest outing, a 3-2 win over the Rockies, Lester struck out a season-high 14 batters in eight innings.
In one meeting against the Pirates this season, Lester led the Cubs to a 4-1 win on May 16, striking out 7 and allowing 1 run in seven innings.
For the Pirates, they turn to Francisco Liriano who despite coming off a sub-par outing in allowing a season-high 10 hits vs the Twins, has a 2.03 ERA over his last five starts.
NOTABLE PIRATES HITTERS VS LESTER (CAR)
Andrew McCutchen, 0-6 (In Lineup)
Jung Ho Kang, 2-3 (In Lineup)
Startling Marte, 2-3, 2B (In Lineup)
Neil Walker, 2-7 (Not in lineup)
Aramis Ramirez, 3-7, 2B, RBI (In Lineup)
Francisco Cervelli, 2-9, 2 RBI (In Lineup)
Sean Rodriguez, 8-33, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 2B (In Lineup)
Michael Morse, 0-3, (In Lineup)
*Excludes players who have 0 at-bats vs Lester*
Opponents have been able to steal bases with Lester on the mound at ease as opponents are 30-for-36 in stolen-base attempts against Lester, tops in the Majors. Starling Marte leads the Pirates with 20 stolen bases, Gregory Polanco, 18.
RIZZO, BRYANT HAVE BEEN PROBLEMS FOR PIRATES
Chicago comes into tonight’s series with a 6-4 record vs the Pirates this season, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and budding superstar Kris Bryant are big reasons why.
Rizzo hitting .286 with 20 home runs, 61 RBIs this season, is batting .405 vs the Pirates with an OPS of 1.051. Bryant has hit .382 with 1 home run, 13 RBIs vs the Pirates this season.
KEY STRETCH AHEAD FOR PIRATES
The Pirates tonight begin a tough 19 game stretch tonight.
3 vs Cubs, 3 vs Dodgers, 3 @ Cardinals, 3 @ Mets, 3 vs Diamondbacks, 4 vs Giants
TONIGHT’S PIRATES LINEUP
1. Gregory Polanco, RF
2. Startling Marte, LF
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Jung Ho Kang, SS
6. Francisco Cervelli, C
7. Michael Morse, 1B
8. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
9. Francisco Liriano, P