Cubs go for sweep of struggling Pirates

The Chicago Cubs will go for a sweep of their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a matinee Thursday at PNC Park. Chicago has belted 17 home runs in its past six games, which makes the one it got in Tuesday’s 8-2 win, a three-run shot by Javy Baez, seem a little paltry. Cubs manager David Ross isn’t taking the offense for granted, considering there were…

The Chicago Cubs will go for a sweep of their three-game series against the

Pittsburgh Pirates in a matinee Thursday at PNC Park.

The Cubs (22-14) have won three straight overall and four of five, and havebeen riding an explosive offense.

Chicago has belted 17 home runs in its past six games, which makes the one itgot in Tuesday’s 8-2 win, a three-run shot by Javy Baez, seem a little paltry.

It’s not just power. The Cubs have banged out 22 hits and scored 16 runsthrough the first two games of this series.

Cubs manager David Ross isn’t taking the offense for granted, consideringthere were times earlier this season when it seemed quiet by comparison tolately.

“We take it day to day,” Ross said. “Hitting is so difficult. It’s really adaily process and a plan each day.”

One of the catalysts is center fielder Ian Happ, who leads the team with a.308 batting average and is tied for the club lead with 10 homers. He had fourhomers in three games before being “held” to a single, a double and a runscored Wednesday.

“The way (Happ) has attacked the baseball and the quality of the bat continuesto stand out to me,” Ross said. “It’s always been in the back of my mindwhenever he started getting back to who we thought he was and who he thoughthe was.”

Happ, who spent his first few seasons trying to find consistency and spentstretches in the minor leagues, has recently been elevated to the leadoff spotin the lineup.

Pittsburgh (10-24), which has lost five of six, hasn’t been dormant at theplate — it has a season-long streak of six straight games with a homer,including towering solo shots Wednesday from Colin Moran and newcomer AnthonyAlford — but it hasn’t been effective enough to get anywhere close to .500.

In addition, the Pirates have helped opponents by leading the majors with 33errors. They had three Tuesday, with shortstop Kevin Newman’s fielding bobbleleading directly to two Chicago runs.

“We cannot give teams extra outs. We cannot give teams extra bases. Especiallya team that’s the best team, record-wise, in our division,” Pittsburgh managerDerek Shelton said. “We have to continue to work on it. We have to continue tomake adjustments. (Wednesday) was sloppy. We’ve got to be better than that.”

In the series finale, Chicago right-hander Alec Mills (3-2, 5.23 ERA) isscheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (0-0, 4.50 ERA).

Mills is coming off his shortest outing of the year, three innings Saturdayagainst the Reds. He gave up just four hits, but three of them were homers.

That seems like an outlier for Mills, who had not given up more than one homerin a game previously.

This will be Mills’ first career start against the Pirates. He has a 4.15 ERAin four relief appearances against Pittsburgh and earned his only career saveagainst the Pirates in a three-inning, two-hit outing in September 2019.

Brubaker has a 6.00 ERA over his first four starts. The rookie is coming off ano-decision Saturday in Milwaukee, when he gave up two runs and three hits infive innings, with six strikeouts and three walks.

He pitched three scoreless innings of relief Aug. 1 in his only appearanceagainst the Cubs.

–Field Level Media

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