If the first three games of the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Chicago Cubs set any sort of precedent, the clubs might need a calculator to track the runs Thursday in the series finale.
The teams have combined for 40 runs through the three games, all of them lopsided.
Pittsburgh won the opener 12-1 and Tuesday’s game 7-1 to run its winning streak to three. Chicago responded by snapping a three-game losing streak Wednesday with a 14-5 win and will go for a series split Thursday.
While both teams have some serious work to do to even get to .500, there have been lighter moments in this series, such as Cubs veteran David Robertson pitching a scoreless eighth Wednesday, then striking out in the ninth in his first at-bat in the major leagues using, according to a team reporter, a borrowed bat and helmet.
Pittsburgh got a poor performance on Wednesday from Jerad Eickhoff, who gave up 10 runs in a spot start and his Pirates debut, and his first major-league appearance since last July.
In addition, the Pirates went with a position player, Diego Castillo, on the mound in the ninth, and he gave up a grand slam to Alfonso Rivas.
Then the Pirates picked up four runs in the bottom of the ninth.
That allowed Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton to smile as he thought of a bigger picture.
“This group continues to play hard,” Shelton said. “That game got out of hand, but our effort level did not. We continue to still go after it.”
In the series finale, Chicago left-hander Justin Steele (2-5, 4.27 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4, 3.66 ERA).
Steele is coming off something of a relief appearance – not coming out of the bullpen but snapping a career-high five-game losing streak Saturday in a 6-3 win against the Atlanta Braves.
It was his first win since April 9.
“You can build off that outing,” said Cubs manager David Ross.
Steele hasn’t really pitched poorly – he has a 1.89 ERA in three starts this month, and he has given up three runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts – but he needed to make an adjustment.
That came after former Cubs stalwart Jon Lester suggested to Ross that Steele go after right-handed hitters low and inside. Ross passed that advice on to Steele.
“Since he’s told me, that’s been my main thing, especially the way my ball is cutting (inside),” Steele said. “My sinker is going the other way, and I’m using my changeup and slider more.”
Against the Pirates, Steele is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three career games, two of them starts. He allowed three runs and four hits in three innings April 24.
Quintana has stumbled some recently after he turned in a 2.00 ERA in May, giving up a total of 11 runs in his past three starts.
Saturday, Quintana did not get a decision when he allowed three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants. He has dished up five homers over his past two starts.
Quintana is 0-4 with a 3.47 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs, with one loss and one no-decision this season.
–Field Level Media