The Chicago Cubs are no longer staring hard at an ugly, double-figure losing streak to end their season.
With four games left, including a series finale Thursday at Pittsburgh before a weekend series against St. Louis, the Cubs (68-90) picked up a 3-2 win over the Pirates on Wednesday that ended a seven-game losing streak.
Chicago has won eight of its past nine games against Pittsburgh and is 13-5 in the season series going into the final matchup between the clubs this year.
Pittsburgh (59-99) has long been taking a look at its future but has a few things it can play for in its final four games.
If they can sweep those four games, Thursday against the Cubs and then a weekend series against Cincinnati, the Pirates would avoid a 100-loss season.
While they can’t gain their first series sweep Thursday — they are the only major league team that has not swept an opponent this year — the Pirates could move to 5-0-1 in their past six home series with a win against Chicago.
Pittsburgh also can watch to see if All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who was named the team MVP Wednesday, can finish at or above .300 in batting average. He went 2-for-3 with two triples and a walk Wednesday to sit at .298.
“Bryan’s really swinging the bat well right now, really seeing the ball well,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
“I think (batting .300) is a big deal. Batting average is a bit of an antiquated stat, but it’s still a big deal. If he continues to swing the bat like this, I hope he makes a really good run at it.”
The Pirates will be without third baseman and keystone young player Ke’Bryan Hayes the rest of the season after he was placed on the 10-day IL on Wednesday because of a sore left wrist.
Shelton said Hayes wanted to finish the season but that the club decided to “be on the safe side,” adding that Hoy Park and Michael Chavis are expected to split duties at third base the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, the Cubs will be without third baseman Patrick Wisdom. He was placed on the IL without a reason given, leading to speculation about whether it is related to COVID-19.
“We’re following all (Major League Baseball) protocols,” Chicago manager David Ross said.
In the series finale, Chicago left-hander Justin Steele (3-4, 4.86 ERA) is expected to start, while Pittsburgh is expected to go with right-hander Miguel Yajure (0-1, 4.85 ERA), who will be facing the Cubs for the first time.
Steele will be making his first career start against Pittsburgh. The rookie has faced the Pirates once, pitching two scoreless, no-hit innings of relief May 9 in Chicago.
As a starter this year, Steele is 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA in eight games.
His last start, Friday against St. Louis, Steele allowed a career-high six runs, with seven hits, three of them homers. He was given some leash to go five innings in his eighth start, as Chicago measures his potential to join the rotation in a more regular manner next year.
“I thought he threw the ball really nice,” Ross said. “It just looked like he ran out of steam there at the back end, trying to let him work through and push through. He wasn’t able to execute and do it, but the first four innings I thought were pretty darned good.”
–Field Level Media