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Cubs News

2023 Cubs Road Trip Preview: Pittsburgh, London

1 year agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs kick off arguably their most exciting road trip of the year, heading out to Pittsburgh for a three-game set before taking on the Cardinals in London for the 2023 London Series, the first time the two teams will meet in Europe.

It’s the second time within 7 days that the Cubs will face Pittsburgh and the Cubs are hopeful that this matchup is just as fruitful as the first. The Cubs swept the then-first place Pirates last week, kickstarting a very successful homestand for Chicago that went 5-1, capturing series wins over Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

The big leg of the road trip, though, comes in the form of the London Series against the Cardinals. The Cubs have played games outside of the continental United States before — they played the Mets in Japan in 2000 and against the Expos in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2003. It’s the first time the Cubs will play St. Louis since a May series. The two rivals won’t face off again until late July.  

Pitching probables

Pittsburgh

Monday: LHP Drew Smyly vs. RHP Osvaldo Bido

Tuesday: RHP Marcus Stroman vs. RHP Johan Oviedo

Wednesday: RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. LHP Rich Hill

Smyly has been strong all year — he’s pitched to a 3.59 ERA across 77.2 IP in 14 starts. But over his last 5 starts, offenses have had a bit more success against the lefty, as he’s posted a 5.60 ERA and opponents are hitting .304 off him. He’s still been able to give the Cubs length and they’ll hope he can continue to do that as the team looks to stay in the NL Central race.

Stroman has been the Cubs’ ace and has put himself in the conversation to be the starter for the National League at this year’s All-Star Game. Ross has talked about dominant starting pitchers and associating them as “win-day”. Stroman has firmly entrenched himself in that category. 

The crafty veteran Hendricks has looked solid over his last two outings, carrying the longest no-hit bid of the season in San Francisco and following that up with 5 runs of 2-run ball against Baltimore on Friday. A return to form for Hendricks has been a nice boon for the Cubs’ rotation. 

The Cubs faced both Bido (4 innings, 1 ER, 1 hit, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts) and Oviedo (4.1 innings, 8 hits, 4 earned run, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts) in two of their 3 wins over the Pirates in Chicago. Hill made his debut in 2005 with the Cubs and pitched 4 seasons with the Cubs through 2008. He’s been a steady presence in the Pirates rotation, pitching to a 4.31 ERA in 14 starts for Pittsburgh. 

London

Saturday: LHP Justin Steele vs. RHP Adam Wainwright

Sunday: RHP Jameson Taillon vs. RHP Jack Flaherty

The Cubs haven’t officially named their starters for the London Series, but Steele and Taillon’s turn in the rotation would be due up when the team heads across the pond. Steele returned from an IL stint and hardly skipped a beat, tossing 5 innings of 2-run ball with 4 strikeouts. The lefty is in the midst of a breakout campaign, pitching to a 2.71 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.

Taillon had his first quality start as a Cub during the homestand, but his outing in the series finale against Baltimore ended on a sour note, as he surrendered a pair of runs in the 6th inning, finishing the day with 4 earned runs in 5.1 innings. He’s shown flashes in each outing, but has yet to really settle into a groove. 

St. Louis has struggled mightily this season and it starts with their rotation. Cardinals starters have pitched to a 4.82 ERA, the 8th-worst mark in baseball. The Cardinals have 18 quality starts this year from their staff, the 6th fewest in the majors. For comparison the Cubs have 31 and Stroman has 13 of those. 

Quote of the Week

“He wants the moment. He yearns for that. I don’t use the word ‘yearn’ a whole lot but like, he wants to be that guy. He prepares that way.”

– Ross, talking about Nico Hoerner’s success with runners in scoring position. 

Storylines to keep an eye on

– London, mate! The pomp and circumstance of the London series will be like nothing the Cubs have seen. They’ll be playing in London Stadium, the home of English Premier League team West Ham United. Like the Field of Dreams game last season, the experience should be fun for players, fans in attendance and fans at home — how often does a Cubs fan have the opportunity to watch their team while enjoying breakfast?

Can the Cubs crawl back into the NL Central race? This road trip will be a good test for the Cubs in that department. The team went 5-1 at home against the Pirates and Orioles and hit the road just 4 games back of the Brewers in the division. Against two teams struggling, this is the perfect opportunity to crawl back in the race.

– Will the Cubs offense continue their hot stretch? A reason why the Cubs were so successful against Pittsburgh and Baltimore was their red-hot offense. They averaged 7.33 runs per game and had an .840 OPS in the 6 games at home. If they can perform like they did at Wrigley, that will be a good pacesetter for the team.

– The Cubs bullpen has struggled for large portions of 2023, but this homestand they showed signs of getting back on track. The relief corps posted a 1.31 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 20.2 innings with Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. cementing themselves as trusted, leverage arms for David Ross.

– London will be a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience for many players on both sides of the heated rivalry — except outfielder Mike Tauchman. The Palatine native played there with the Yankees in 2019.  

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