Chicago Cubs hitters have experienced few problems against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season but could face a considerable challenge as they try for their first three-game home sweep in the series in seven years.
The Pirates’ Gerrit Cole has won each of his five starts against the Cubs and carries a personal streak of seven consecutive victories into Wednesday night’s finale.
Chicago (12-7) has batted .315 and scored 31 runs while going 4-2 against the Pirates this season. The Cubs have totaled 10 runs and 23 hits in the first two games of this series, including a 6-2 victory Tuesday that was their fourth in a row.
"We’re playing at a really high level mentally right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "A lot of energy, trying to make things happen."
Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro combined for six hits and drove in three runs. Castro has at least one hit in each of his last seven games against Pittsburgh, going 13 for 30 (.433) with six RBIs, and is batting .386 in his last 10 overall.
Ballyhooed rookie Kris Bryant is batting .391 (9 for 23) in this season’s series with nine of his 10 RBIs. He’s 5 for 18 against the two other teams he’s faced.
The Cubs will try to keep rolling while completing their first three-game sweep against the Pirates at Wrigley Field since April 18-20, 2008. They swept a three-game set at Pittsburgh from Sept. 7-9, 2012.
The Pirates (11-10), who split a four-game home series with the Cubs last week, have totaled two runs and nine hits while striking out 19 times and failing to draw a walk in this visit.
"We’ve been playing in some streaks," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We continue to say the game’s contagious, and we’ve had some contagion on the other side."
Cole (3-0, 2.19 ERA) looks to become the first Pirates starter to win his first six games against one opponent since Dock Ellis won in his first seven matchups versus San Diego from 1969-71. He has a 3.48 ERA in his five career matchups with the Cubs, with Castro going 5 for 9.
The right-hander, who yielded a run while striking out seven over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-1 victory at Arizona on Friday, has a 1.37 ERA in winning his last three starts. He’s 7-0 with a 2.65 ERA in nine starts dating back to his last visit to Wrigley, a 10-4 victory Sept. 7. He beat the Cubs again five days later.
The Cubs will send out Kyle Hendricks, who has no record and a 5.74 ERA in his first three starts after going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA in his 13 last season. He gave up three or more runs in three outings in 2014 and already has two such performances this year.
Hendricks was charged with three runs in 5 1-3 innings Thursday in a 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh, his first matchup with the Pirates. Gregory Polanco went 2 for 3 with an RBI double that chased the right-hander in the sixth, but has not started the first two in this series because of an ailing left groin.
Polanco, batting .284 with seven doubles and seven RBIs, struck out in a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth inning Tuesday.