A capsule look at the Cubs-Pirates playoff game
Schedule: Wednesday, at Pittsburgh, 8:08 p.m. EDT (TBS).
Season Series: Cubs won 11-8.
Cubs: CF Dexter Fowler (.250, 17 HRs, 46 RBIs), LF Kyle Schwarber (.246, 16, 43), 3B Kyle Bryant (.275, 26, 99), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31, 101), 2B Starlin Castro (.265, 11, 69), RF Chris Coghlan (.250, 16, 41), C Miguel Montero (.248, 15, 53), SS Addison Russell (.242, 13, 54).
Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco (.256, 9, 52, 27 SBs), LF Starling Marte (.287, 19, 81, 30 SBs), CF Andrew McCutchen (.292, 23, 86, 36 2Bs), 3B Aramis Ramirez (.246, 17, 75 with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh), 2B Neil Walker (.269, 16, 71), 1B Pedro Alvarez (.243, 27, 77, 131 Ks), C Francisco Cervelli (.295, 7, 43), SS Jordy Mercer (.244, 3, 34).
Cubs: RH Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA, 236 Ks, 48 BBs).
Pirates: RH Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60 ERA, 202 Ks).
Cubs: RH Hector Rondon (6-4, 1.67, 30/34 saves), RH Justin Grimm (3-5, 1.99, 3 saves), RH Pedro Strop (2-6, 2.91, 3 saves), LH Travis Wood (5-4, 3.84, 4 saves), RH Fernando Rodney (7-5, 4.74, 16 saves with Mariners and Cubs), RH Neil Ramirez (1-0, 3.21 in 19 games).
Pirates: RH Mark Melancon (3-2, 2.23, 51/53 saves, 0.93 WHIP), LH Tony Watson (4-1, 1.91, 1 save, .205 BAA), RH Jared Hughes (3-1, 2.28, 76 games), RH Joakim Soria (3-1, 2.53, 24/30 saves with Detroit and Pittsburgh), RHP Arquimedes Caminero (5-1, 3.62, 73 Ks in 74 2-3 innings), LH Bobby LaFromboise (0-0, 1.13, .179 BAA).
This is the first postseason meeting between the teams, who have been in the same division since 1969. And it features a pair of Cy Young Award contenders in a highly anticipated pitching matchup. ... Arrieta went 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA in 5 starts against Pittsburgh this season. That included a gem on Sept. 27 when he tossed one-hit ball over 7 scoreless innings, striking out nine without a walk. ... Arrieta is no slouch at the plate, either. He hit 2 homers this season and sometimes bats eighth. ... Pirates took two of three in Chicago in late September to help them edge the Cubs for home-field advantage. ... Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 9 career starts against Chicago, including 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA this season. ... Cole went 9-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 15 starts at PNC Park this year. ... Rizzo is hitting .353 against Cole. ... Marte batted .288 with 3 homers and 10 RBIs against Chicago this season. ... Melancon collected 5 of his major league-leading 51 saves against Chicago. The Cubs had 12 hits off Pittsburgh's closer, the most by any team. ... The winner heads for St. Louis to play the NL Central champion Cardinals in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Friday.
Cubs: Under free-spirited new manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs (97-65) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after earning the second NL wild card. Paced by a young and powerful lineup, they're trying to reach their first World Series in 70 years and end a championship drought that dates to 1908. They haven't even won a playoff game since famously squandering a 3-1 lead in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins. Chicago was swept in the Division Series in 2007 by Arizona and 2008 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. But a victory in Pittsburgh would bring postseason baseball back to venerable Wrigley Field, the quaint ballpark that moved into the 21st century this year with a renovation that included a 3,990-square foot video board above the left-field bleachers and a smaller one in right. ... Chicago comes in as arguably the hottest team in baseball with eight straight wins and a 46-19 record over its final 65 games starting July 27. The 46 victories were the most in the majors during that span. ... Chicago had the best road record in the majors (48-33) and was only slightly better at home (49-32). ... Chicago pitchers set a National League record with 1,431 strikeouts, breaking the mark set by the 2003 Cubs (1,404).
Pirates: Pittsburgh (98-64) made the playoffs for the third straight season, all three times as a wild card. ... The Pirates beat Cincinnati in the 2013 wild-card round and lost to San Francisco last year, with both games at PNC Park. ... Rolled after a sluggish 18-22 start, posting the best record in the majors since May 20 (80-42). ... The Pirates went 53-28 at PNC, tied for the third-best home record in the majors, but were 4-6 at home against the Cubs. ... Melancon's 51 saves were a club record. He converted 35 straight during one stretch, also a club record. ... Marte (16) and Polanco (13) finished first and second in the NL in outfield assists. ... The Pirates had the second-best ERA in the majors (3.21) behind St. Louis. ... Mercer took over as the starting shortstop following a late-season injury to rookie bopper Jung Ho Kang, who broke his leg on a hard slide by Coghlan on Sept. 17. Mercer hit .391 over his next six starts. ... Pittsburgh's 98 wins tied for the third-most in franchise history. ... Ramirez is retiring at the end of the season. He hit .245 with six homers after coming back to Pittsburgh - where he broke into the majors in 1999.
- Under Pressure. The Cubs showed poise during the regular season. Now, we'll see how they respond in the playoff spotlight. Rookies such as Bryant, Schwarber and Russell will be getting their first taste of the postseason. The same goes for Arrieta, who led the majors in wins.
- Cole Train. The 25-year-old ace gets better as the season goes on. He is 12-2 in his career in starts after Sept. 1 and doesn't need much help. Cole is 37-6 when given at least three runs of support.
- Tight Ones. Pittsburgh went 36-17 in one-run games, the best record in the majors.