The Chicago Cubs have hit a bit of an offensive slump, but they’ve managed to preserve their National League Central lead. The Cubs hope to get the bats going and add to their cushion in the division when they wrap up a four-game road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
Chicago has scored only five runs in its past four contests, but the Cubs snapped a three-game skid with a 1-0 win Wednesday. Despite the losing streak, the Cubs have maintained a four-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago has six games remaining against the Brewers and seven against the Cardinals after wrapping up the season series against Pittsburgh. The series is tied 9-9, and late-inning drama has marked the past two games, as the Pirates scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday and Chicago plated the only run of the night in the top of the ninth Wednesday.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Chicago, ATT SportsNet Pittsburgh
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (9-7, 4.46 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Jameson Taillon (7-5, 4.50)
Lester wasn’t at his sharpest in his return from the disabled list Friday, but he still earned the win against Atlanta. The 33-year-old allowed four runs and eight hits over five innings in his first start since Aug. 17. Lester is 4-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 11 starts against the Pirates, including 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in three meetings this season.
Taillon has not received a decision in his last four starts. The 25-year-old was sharp last time out, though, holding Cincinnati to three hits over six scoreless frames for his first quality start in his last four outings. Taillon is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in four starts against Chicago.
1. Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is 6-for-11 with a double and two homers against Taillon, and INF Javier Baez is 5-for-7 with two doubles and a homer against him.
2. Pirates 3B David Freese is 10-for-21 during a six-game hitting streak
3. Chicago RH Wade Davis converted his 29th save in as many chances Wednesday, extending his franchise record.
PREDICTION: Cubs 4, Pirates 3