Four games left. I can practically smell October baseball, and damn, does it smell good. However, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates who do battle Thursday will not be a part of the postseason. The Cubs were eliminated from contention on Wednesday after a complete second-half choke job.
The Pirates, well, they’re the Pirates. There’s really not much on the line here for either team. The Cubs already clinched a .500 season, while the Pirates clinched a sub-.500 season.
The real thing on the line in these last four games for these teams is jobs for next season. A lot of players will be using these games to audition for scouts for both their current teams as well as the 29 other teams in the league.
For the Cubs, Jose Quintana will make his 31st start of the season. Quintana is 13-8, marking his fourth straight season with double-digit wins. He has been a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for Chicago, as shown by his 4.55 ERA and his 3.87 FIP. Quintana has dominated the Pirates this season, going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts.
On the other hand, the lefty has had a rough stretch in September, which has contributed to the Cubs collapse. He has made it out of the fourth inning only one time in four starts and has given up a total of 18 runs in those four starts. Stretching that sample size to his last six starts, Quintana has an 8.49 ERA.
For the Pirates, Joe Musgrove will go to the mound for his 31st start of the season as well. It has been a career year for Musgrove in a lot of different categories. This season, he eclipsed the 30-start mark for the first time. He also reached double-digit wins for the first time, as well as hitting the 150-strikeout mark.
Musgrove has faced the Cubs three times already this season. He is 0-1 against Chicago, but he’s pitched beautifully in all three starts. He has a 1.08 ERA and a 0.660 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings. He also has 19 strikeouts in those 16-plus innings.
Batters To Watch
Anthony Rizzo has been exceptional in the second half of the season. He’s batting .327 with eight home runs and 36 RBI in 60 second-half games. He’s even more lethal at home, where he’s hitting .354 with 13 bombs. Keep an eye out for Nick Castellanos as well, who has been absolutely filthy since joining Chicago.
Adam Frazier was a popular breakout candidate in spring training, and he’s done a solid job making those people right. He’s batting .281 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI.
I’ve talked about it a little bit already, but let’s just keep making fun of Chicago. They had a record of 57-51 on Aug. 1 and were tied for the first Wild Card in the National League. They had a solid month of August, going 16-12 for a record of 73-63 and still were in a Wild Card position by three games over the Brewers.
However, in September, they went only 9-13 in the most important stretch and fell to 82-76, eliminating themselves from the playoffs, as they sit six games out with four games left. They looked like they had signs of life after winning five straight in the middle of the month. But heading into the biggest series of the season against division-leading St. Louis, they lost four straight in a season-killing sweep. This current eight-game losing streak has put the nail in the coffin.
Quintana has been having a super rough stretch, while Musgrove has been solid. Also, Chicago might never win another game in history. Take the Pirates.