Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.
For a fifth starter Kyle Hendricks is a pretty good number one pitcher. In the Cubs 3-0 win against the Pirates tonight Hendricks (13-7) showed once again he has taken his pitching to another level by shutting down the Pirates for seven innings. As a result, Hendricks lowered his MLB-leading ERA from 2.19 to 2.09. Hendricks was also able to extend his streak of games of allowing three runs or less to 18 straight.
Hendricks’ performance allowed for the offense to take the night off as he brought a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Pittsburgh got a hit. The only offense needed was a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo in the first and an RBI single by Miguel Montero in the second inning. Carl Edwards, Jr. pitched a scoreless eighth while Aroldis Chapman closed the game out in the ninth for his 31st save of the season and 11th as a Cub. The Cubs are now 21-6 for the month of August, but most importantly, the Cubs magic number to make the playoffs is 18. The win also moved their home record at Wrigley Field to an MLB-best 47-19.
The Cubs (84-47) go for the series sweep on Thursday in a nationally televised game on ESPN. The Pirates (67-63) will send Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02 ERA) to the mound to prevent the sweep. Vogelsong is coming off of a win over Milwaukee in which he held the Brewers to one earned run over five-plus innings. Vogelsong has had a tough season. Earlier in the year, on May 23, he suffered a fracture in his orbital bone after he was struck in the eye by a pitch from Jordan Lyles of the Colorado Rockies. Vogelsong underwent facial surgery to repair the bones. He was on the disabled list for two months to heal until he was able to make his successful return on August 4 against the Atlanta Braves.
The Cubs will have Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21 ERA) pitching who has been struggling as of late. Hammel has lost his last two starts after winning his six previous starts. Something has been a little off for Hammel as he has not made it to the 4th inning in both of those starts. In fact he has only been able to pitch 5.2 innings over two games and in the short time he has given up nine earned runs with three strikeouts. Hammel could use this game to right his mechanics in order to get back on the winning track. In his loss to the Colorado Rockies back on August 21st, Hammel gave up ten runs, six earned, in three-plus innings, which ended his 22-inning scoreless streak.
Outlook: Vogelsong has made two appearances against the Cubs this season. Altogether he has pitched 3.1 innings against Chicago and has only given up one run. Conversely, Hammel has made two starts against the Pirates this season and has gone 2-0. He has pitched a total of 11.2 innings and has only given up three earned runs. Both pitchers are right-handed, which could pose a problem for the offenses as the Cubs and Pirates are 18th and 20th respectively against right-handed pitchers with averages of .254 and .253. Overall, this game will be most important to see where Hammel’s pitching is at as it’s essential for him to work out of his funk heading into this last month before the playoffs.