Pirates-Cubs Preview

The Chicago Cubs have captured five straight home series after

taking one against an NL contender to open this six-game

homestand.

They’ll welcome another one of the league’s top teams to Wrigley

Field on Monday night in the start of a three-game set against the

Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago (42-58) improved to an NL-best 12-3 at home since June

25 after winning the final two games of a weekend series against

St. Louis. Anthony Rizzo hit his first career walk-off homer with a

two-run shot in the 10th inning in Sunday’s 4-2 victory.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a

little kid,” said Rizzo, who is 7 for 15 with three homers and

seven RBIs over his last four contests. “I’ve never done it before

– not in the minors, not in Little League, not ever. This is

awesome.”

These teams are meeting again after the Cubs outscored

Pittsburgh 9-4 in taking two of three at PNC Park last week.

The Pirates’ Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) was a hard-luck loser

in a 2-0 defeat in the opener of that series. He struck out 11 and

allowed one run and two hits over seven innings.

“It was fun to watch him go to work, too, with the

fastball-curveball-changeup combination,” manager Clint Hurdle

said.

Bedard has not pitched since that outing because the Pirates

(58-43) inserted the newly acquired Wandy Rodriguez into their

rotation Saturday in Houston. Bedard, who has never pitched at

Wrigley Field, has yielded one run and four hits over 13 innings

against Chicago this year.

Pittsburgh’s lineup will be boosted Monday with the return of

Andrew McCutchen, who leads the majors with a .368 average. The

star center fielder did not start Sunday’s 9-5 defeat at Houston

since Hurdle wanted to rest him.

McCutchen popped out as a pinch-hitter and went 4 for 12 in the

four-game series. He’s 6 for 18 against the Cubs this year to lead

the Pirates.

The Pirates’ four-game win streak ended Sunday. They continue to

lead the wild-card race, but fell three games behind NL Central

leader Cincinnati.

Garrett Jones homered, extending the club’s streak with at least

one to a team-record 19 straight road games. The Pirates lead the

majors with 72 road homers.

Pittsburgh took two of three in all three visits to Wrigley last

year, homering nine times as McCutchen and Neil Walker each went

deep twice.

The only Pirates hitter with more than one at-bat against

right-hander Justin Germano (0-1, 3.00) is shortstop Clint Barmes,

who is 2 for 4. Germano will pitch Monday for Chicago in his first

start since Oct. 3, 2010, with Cleveland.

“He’s crafty,” manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs’ official

website. “He’s not going to light up a radar gun, but he’s got

great arm speed on all his offspeed pitches and can change speeds

on a slow curveball – anywhere from 68-75, 78 mph curveball,

changeup.

“He sinks the ball, keeps the ball down. He’s kind of crafty as

much as anything but has command of four pitches.”

Germano’s lone previous appearance for Chicago came July 21 when

he allowed one run over three innings at St. Louis.