The Cubs are on the precipice of a four-game sweep, which would have felt like an impossibility only a week ago even when considering their opponent is the lowly Pirates. After looking very much like the worst team in franchise history, this ragtag group of no-names has brought a little much-needed excitement to Wrigley.
Rafael Ortega leads off in center, followed by Frank Schwindel at first, Ian Happ in left, and Patrick Wisdom at first. Imagine hearing that top four in April and feeling good about it. Matt Duffy is at second, Jason Heyward is in right, Robinson Chirinos is the catcher, and Sergio Alcántara is at short.
Zach Davies isn’t the starter you’d pick to lock down a sweep, but he’s coming off of two very good starts and has the ability to shut opponents down when he’s on. That hasn’t always been the case this season as control issues have led to an inflated ERA and kept him from pitching deep into games with alarming frequency.
Even if Davies isn’t throwing particularly well, the Cubs get the benefit of facing a pitcher whose 5.46 ERA is no fluke. Righty Wil Crowe has given up 20 homers in just 94 innings and his 4.4 BB/9 mark means there are often runners on base when hitters take him deep. That said, he’s limited the Cubs to just one dinger in three previous matchups.
Ah, but those all came prior to the emergence of this new — if still temporary — core of sluggers. If Crowe keeps pumping that mid-90’s fastball in the zone, he’s going to get whiplash watching Schwindel and Co. carpet bomb the bleachers with dingers. Perhaps the best chance for the 26-year-old righty is lean a little more heavily on his changeup, which is the only pitch that’s yielded decent results for him this season.
He does appear to be going to the offspeed stuff a little more frequently over the last month or so, though his repertoire tends to vary widely based on his opponent. It’s probably also a matter of feel, or lack thereof, when it comes to which of his secondaries he prefers on a given day.
Crowe has posted massive reverse splits this season, which is largely a function of the change, as right-handed batters hit nearly 100 points better and have 69 more points of wOBA than their left-handed counterparts. He’s been shelled on the road by hitters from both sides, with righties posting nearly identical home/road splits and lefties crushing him much more than they do when he’s in Pittsburgh.
This has all the markings of a big game for the Cubs, so I’ll apologize in advance if I have now jinxed them. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 5, 2021