The Chicago Cubs are the latest to discover that the Pittsburgh Pirates are not doing well in playing spoiler in the National League Central.
Pittsburgh (15-39) had a shot to make a difference in the division playoff race with successive series against Cincinnati, St. Louis and now the Cubs. However, the Pirates dropped all four games against the Reds, four of five against the Cardinals and then, Monday, the opener of a four-game series against the Cubs, getting shut out 5-0.
Chicago (32-22) ended a two-game losing streak Monday but is 9-4 in its past 13 as it edges toward clinching first place in the division.
The Cubs are 6-1 this year against Pittsburgh, which has six games left.
“Definitely want to win all six of them,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “That would be great. But what we do in these last six games is not going to affect what we do next year in spring training.”
Chicago lost third baseman Kris Bryant to an oblique problem on an awkward swing in the second inning Monday, as he left the game an inning later.
“I’m worried, but I don’t know,” Cubs manager David Ross said of the severity of the injury, calling Bryant day-to-day.
On Tuesday, Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana (0-0, 6.00 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh left-hander Steven Brault (1-3, 4.04).
Ross announced Monday that Quintana would come off the injured list Tuesday and start.
Quintana has missed the past three weeks because of a strained lat muscle. There was talk that he would report to the bullpen when he returned, but Ross said Quintana’s work at the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend, Ind., was to allow for a pitch count conducive to starting.
“He’ll have a little bit of a leash,” Ross said of Quintana’s pitch count, then joked that Quintana was stretched out to 100 pitches.
It could be more likely that Quintana will be used in something closer to an opener’s role, but Ross didn’t reveal any specific plans.
Quintana missed the start of the season because he cut his hand washing dishes. He was back for just two relief appearances before the lat injury landed him on the IL on Aug. 31.
Against the Pirates, Quintana is 5-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 11 career starts.
Brault will be making his 100th big league appearance, but he is going to have go a long way to top his 99th. On Thursday, he pitched his first career complete game, giving up two hits and a run with eight strikeouts in a 5-1 win over St. Louis.
He said he took a put-on-the-blinders approach that game, and it worked. He didn’t do his normal prep work on the Cardinals. He just took the mound.
“We decided before the game that I wasn’t going to shake (any pitch calls),” Brault said of himself and catcher Jacob Stallings. “I wasn’t going to think. I was just going to be a freaking throwing machine.”
Stallings didn’t object. He was just glad to be a part of it.
“He was obviously phenomenal,” Stallings said. “That’s the most excited I’ve been on a baseball field in quite a while. Almost felt like I threw a complete game. It was fun. Team needed it. Couldn’t be happier for Steven, for sure.”
Brault didn’t reveal if he planned to do anything different going into the game against Chicago.
He is 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA in 15 career games, six of them six starts, against the Cubs.
–Field Level Media