Cubs, Pirates open three-game set in Chicago

MLB

A pair of veteran starting pitchers will try to bounce back from shaky season debuts when the Chicago Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night to open a three-game series.

Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (0-1, 6.75 ERA) lasted only four innings in his first start against the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend. He gave up three runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks.

The results were even worse the first time around for Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (0-1, 7.36 ERA), who managed only 3 2/3 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. He allowed three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out three.

Both the Cubs and Pirates have already played 10 percent of the season, but Chicago has won four of six and the Pirates have lost four of six. Both teams should be rested after a day off Thursday, although the Cubs spent much of the day waiting in Cincinnati before their scheduled game against the Reds was called off because of rain.

“The main thing with this environment is that you don’t want guys sitting around the visiting clubhouse all day,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “With all that we’re dealing with right now, this makes a lot of sense. The sooner we can make a decision if we think we can play the game or not, the better.”

Darvish initially was set to start Thursday but will face the Pirates on an extra day’s rest instead. He is 7-12 with a 4.20 ERA in 40 career starts with the Cubs, but he shined in the second half of last season with a 2.76 ERA.

Against the Pirates in his career, Darvish is 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts. He has 31 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Ross said he remains high on Darvish despite the veteran’s up-and-down first start. He cited Darvish’s split-finger fastball as a key factor going forward.

“I thought he did a nice job of pitching the last time out, just some long innings without being able to put guys away,” Ross said. “Looking for that ‘splitty’ to show up. I feel like that’s the dominant pitch for him. When he’s got that going, it lines up with all those other pitches.”

For the Pirates, Williams is looking to recapture his sharpness from 2018, when he went 14-10 with a 3.11 ERA. Last season proved to be more difficult for the Arizona State product as he finished 7-9 with a 5.38 ERA.

Williams is 3-6 with a 6.30 ERA in 11 career appearances (nine starts) against the Cubs.

The Pirates’ day off Thursday might have helped outfielder Gregory Polanco more than anybody else on the team. Polanco has started one game at designated hitter and one game in right field since coming back from a bout with COVID-19. He said he feels stronger every day but is still working to get into the rhythm of the game.

Polanco remains in search of his first hit on the season. He is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts but has stayed upbeat.

“I love having him around,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He’s happy. He’s in a good mood. He smiles. He’s great in the clubhouse. Having him back makes me smile because every day when he walks in, he smiles.”

–Field Level Media

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