MLB

Pirates-Cubs Preview

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are making things difficult on opposing pitchers, helping the surprising Chicago Cubs stand on the verge of completing an outstanding stretch at Wrigley Field.

Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett is frustrating hitters, but the Pirates aren't taking advantage.

The young sluggers try to stay hot as the Cubs go for a sweep of their homestand Sunday, while Burnett looks to extend one of the best starts in team history.

Bryant and Rizzo went a combined 4 for 5 while reaching base six times in Saturday's 4-1 victory as Chicago extended its winning streak to six - its longest since a seven-game run from July 31-Aug. 6, 2011.

Bryant has gone 9 for 20 with three home runs and eight RBIs over the first six games of this homestand, while Rizzo is batting .412 with three homers and eight RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.

The Cubs (21-15) haven't swept a homestand of at least seven games since going 7-0 from May 26-June 1, 2008. They also haven't been seven games over .500 since they were 82-75 on Sept. 30, 2009.

"We're pitching pretty well. Obviously, our offense has done some pretty good things and we're playing good defense," Bryant said. "We're having a lot of fun with this and hopefully, we can keep it going."

Chicago looks to get past another tough test facing Burnett (2-1, 1.60 ERA), who will try to set a franchise record by opening a season with an eighth straight start with two runs or fewer allowed.

The right-hander joined Bob Walk (1988) as the only Pittsburgh starters to do it over seven outings Tuesday when he gave up one earned run over seven innings in a 7-2 win at Philadelphia. Despite his dominance, the Pirates have only won three of Burnett's starts.

Burnett did not get a decision in his only outing against the Cubs on April 20, yielding one run over six innings in a 5-2 home loss. He's 1-4 with a 3.50 ERA in his last seven starts versus Chicago.

Starlin Castro has fared well versus Burnett, batting .469 (15 for 32) - his best average for any of the 30 pitchers he's faced at least 20 times. Miguel Montero is 4 for 7 off Burnett, while Rizzo has gone 6 for 23 with two home runs. Rizzo is also batting .429 and Bryant is at .375 in nine games versus Pittsburgh this season.

"When teams like that get hot, they can be pretty tough to beat," Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker said.

Jake Arrieta (4-3, 3.00) appears to stand a good chance at sending the Pirates (17-20) to a season high-tying fifth straight defeat since he's 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five career meetings. The right-hander also opposed Burnett last month, allowing one run over seven innings to earn the win.

After giving up nine runs and 16 hits over 10 1-3 innings in losing his previous two starts, he allowed one run and three hits with a season-high 10 strikeouts in Tuesday's 6-1 win over the New York Mets.

Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Josh Harrison are a combined 3 for 32 when facing Arrieta, though Andrew McCutchen is 6 for 14 with two doubles. Harrison has been a bright spot of late, going 9 for 15 in his last three games.

The Pirates matched a season high run total in Friday's 11-10, 12-inning loss, but struggled while going 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 men on base Saturday.

Promoted Stories
Comments

More MLB