The Pittsburgh Pirates battled to a comeback 12-6 victory Saturday evening over the Chicago Cubs. Josh Bell had the big hit, a grand slam in his second Major League at-bat.
“We were having a blast,” said pitcher Arquimedes Caminero. “It was a fun time playing baseball, playing as hard as we could to win the game. That’s what we try to do when we go out there.”
— Jed (@Jedidiah412) July 10, 2016
This afternoon, the Pirates will try to earn a series sweep of the Cubs — if Pittsburgh can win, they’ll trail Chicago by 5.5 games in the NL Central heading into the All-Star Break.
In today’s contest, Pittsburgh’s Jonathon Niese (7-6, 4.87 ERA) will face Chicago’s John Lackey (7-5, 3.50 ERA).
Niese is coming off a win against the St. Louis Cardinals where he allowed one run on eight hits in 5.2 innings. He’s second in the National League with home runs allowed (19), third in hits allowed (116) and first in wild pitches allowed (8). Niese has a 3-8 career record against the Cubs with a 5.35 ERA in 12 career starts.
Lackey is coming off a loss to the Cincinnati Reds where he allowed five runs on six hits in six innings; he also walked a season-high five batters. Many Pirates aren’t shy about hitting a first pitch, and Lackey leads all Major League pitchers with a 40 percent swing rate on the opening toss of an at-bat.
Arquimedes Caminero showing signs of 2015 form
Pittsburgh reliever Caminero got the win in yesterday’s game, improving to 1-2 on the season. He retired all five batters he faced, and both of his inherited runners were stranded.
In his past 13 games, he’s posted a 1.42 ERA.
“Every time I go out there I try to pound the strike zone,” he said. “It was exciting to see the guys so excited yesterday. You just try to put up zeroes and give them the chance to win the game.”
Caminero was placed on the disabled list May 25 with a left quad strain and missed 17 games before returning to the team.
Now in his return, he’s showing improved command, and, last night, six consecutive pitches were 100 miles per-hour or higher, something that impressed manager Clint Hurdle.
“I’m getting back on track and throwing strikes,” Caminero said. “Everything is going well. I’m doing the best I can to keep that going.”
- John Jaso 1B
- Starling Marte LF
- Andrew McCutchen CF
- David Freese 3B
- Sean Rodriguez 2B
- Adam Frazier RF
- Jordy Mercer SS
- Eric Fryer C
- Jonathon Niese P
- Ben Zobrist 2B
- Kris Bryant LF
- Anthony Rizzo 1B
- Willson Contreras C
- Addison Russell SS
- Jason Heyward RF
- Javier Baez 3B
- Albert Almora CF
- John Lackey
McCutchen will enjoy a break
If you thought center fielder Andrew McCutchen would be disappointed by not getting to make a trip to the All-Star Game, you wouldn’t have known it from his pregame remarks today.
It’s been a trying first half of the season for McCutchen, who has spent much of it in an extended slump.
“I’m really excited about the break. It’s four days you never get,” he said. “It’s the first time I get a break in five years, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m trying not to get too excited, we still have a game today, but I have the next four days to relax.”
The All-Star Game is among the busiest times of the year with all of the obligations both on and off the field that are asked of each player.
“It’s a great opportunity and four days you’re not going to get at any other time,” McCutchen said. “You get a chance to refresh and get the body back where it needs to be so you can get going in the second half.”
Bottom of the ninth
Rookie Josh Bell won’t start this game, and Hurdle told reporters today that he doesn’t foresee the switch hitter replacing John Jaso as a starter at first base.
“I don’t see him moving in front of Jaso with the job he’s done,” Hurdle said. “He hasn’t played the outfield in two years, so would that be fair to throw him in the outfield in a day game? It’s not to me. You want to put guys in a position for success.”
Jeff Locke will be available out of the bullpen for today’s game. Given their recent high volume of work, both Jared Hughes and Juan Nicasio will be unavailable for today’s game. It’s likely that A.J. Schugel also won’t pitch, given that he’s thrown 35 pitches in the past two games. … Hurdle also said he’ll try to avoid using Gregory Polanco, who has left hamstring tightness.
Image credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images