— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 8, 2018
After winning their fourth straight series, the Cubs welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates back to Chicago for a weekend set. Hopefully tensions have settled a bit since they last met in Pittsburgh, but you never really know with Clint Hurdle at the wheel.
Kris Bryant has been in a a bit of a funk lately, posting just a .646 OPS over his last 15 games. As we’ve seen him do with other players, like Anthony Rizzo, Joe Maddon will use the leadoff position to try and spark Bryant offensively. With his speed and baserunning ability, Bryant is always an intriguing leadoff option anyway, so it will be fun to see if he can challenge Rizzo’s status as the greatest of all time at that spot.
Ben Zobrist swaps with Bryant today, hitting in the three-hole. The rest of the lineup is somewhat standard fare with Jason Heyward in the two-hole and Rizzo cleaning up followed by Willson Contreras. Albert Almora gets the start in center and hits sixth, with Javeir Baez and Ian Happ rounding out the order in front of Mike Montgomery.
Montgomery will look to continue building his case for a long-term spot in the rotation following yet another wild outing from Tyler Chatwood Thursday afternoon. Montgomery has been solid in his two starts since Yu Darvish went on the disabled list. Adding another solid start will certainly help his push to remain a starter once Darvish returns.
Montgomery’s first start of 2018 came against these same Pirates on May 28 at PNC Park. Mike tossed 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball while allowing just two hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He followed that up with six innings of one-run ball against the Mets, allowing just one walk while striking out four. While Montgomery’s numbers and stuff don’t necessarily jump off the page, his ability to work deeper into games and keep the walk totals down are obviously in stark contrast to what we’ve seen from Chatwood in the early going.
Opposing Monty will be righty Chad Kuhl, who was also his opponent in the May 28 game in Pittsburgh. Kuhl took the loss in that game, but only because the Pirates failed to scratch any runs across against Montgomery and the Cubs bullpen. Kuhl was solid in that game, allowing just one run over six innings while walking four and striking out five. The lone run Kuhl surrendered came when Rizzo hit a home run in the second inning, so the 7-0 Cubs win that day certainly doesn’t reflect Kuhl’s pitching performance.
In his lone start since that game, Kuhl gave up two runs over six innings while walking two and striking out five against the Cardinals. Lefties have fared quite well against Kuhl this season (as evidenced by Rizzo’s home run), putting up a .366 wOBA so far this season. Kuhl currently sports a 4-3 record with a 3.86 ERA/4.80 FIP in 67.2 innings pitched in 2018.