Saturday, September 23, 2023
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MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (67-60) at Pittsburgh Pirates (57-71)


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THE PIRATES:..lost 5-4 in 10 innings last night in the opener of their four-game series against the Cubs…Have lost back-to-back games after winning two straight and three of their previous four games…Have gone 16-17 in their last 33 games since losing each of their first five games following the All-Star break.

ABOUT TONIGHT’S STARTER: Righthander Mitch Keller comes into today with 173 strikeouts, which are the most by a Pirate since Jameson Taillon had 179 in 2018 (the last Pirate to have more than Taillon was Gerrit Cole with 196 in 2017)…Keller also comes into today ranked seventh in all of MLB (fourth in the National League) in strikeouts…The last Pirate to finish among the top 10 leaders in strikeouts in MLB was A.J. Burnett with 209 in 2013. K IS FOR KELLER: Mitch Keller recorded his third double-digit strikeout game of this season in his last start Saturday at Minnesota…The last Pirate to have three double-digit strikeout performances in a season was Francisco Liriano in 2016…The last Pirates righthanders to have three double-digit strikeout games in a season were A.J. Burnett and James McDonald in 2012 (three each).

AND THE WHIFF: The Pirates pitching staff comes into today with a Major-League leading 212 strikeouts this month (Atlanta ranks second with 204)…Pittsburgh is also tied for the fifth-most punchouts (1098) in the National League this season (Miami leads with 1200)…Last year Pittsburgh ranked 11th in the National League with 1250 strikeouts.

CUTCH CLOSING IN ON 300: Andrew McCutchen is just one home run shy of 300 in his career…The 36-year-old McCutchen ranks fourth all-time in Pirates history with 215 home runs…His next blast will make him one of 12 active players with at least 300 career home runs (Bryce Harper is three home runs shy of 300 as well).

DELAY MODE: Jason Delay went 1-for-4 with an RBI and run scored in his last start Wednesday against the Cardinals…Since July 16, Delay is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with four doubles, six RBI and a .406 OBP.

MAKING THEM COUNT: Last night Joshua Palacios became the 48th different player in PNC Park history to hit a ball into the Allegheny River…In addition to last night, Palacios hit the first home run of his career on June 2 against the Cardinals at PNC Park…His second homer was a walkoff in the 10th inning on his 28th birthday on July 30 against the Phillies…His fifth homer came Monday night while playing against his younger Richie as part of a career-high five RBI night. THE BEAR FACTS: Ke’Bryan Hayes is 6-for-15 with a double and two home runs in his career against Kyle Hendricks…Andrew McCutchen has recorded 103 career RBI against the Cubs (his most vs. any team)…Connor Joe is a lifetime .379 hitter (22-for-58) with six doubles, a triple and three home runs in 18 games against Chicago…David Bednar has an 0.42 ERA in 21 career appearances (21.2ip/1er) against the Cubs.

RELIEF WORK: Last night marked the second time this season that the Pirates had a pitcher toss at least 6.0 innings in relief (in addition to Andre Jackson last night Bailey Falter also did so on August 21 against the Cardinals)…It’s the first time the Pirates have had multiple instances of a reliever working 6.0-plus innings in a single season since the 1984 campaign when they had three instances of it (Don Robinson – 8.0 innings on May 30 at Reds; Cecilo Guante – 6.2 innings in game two of a doubleheader on June 22 vs. Phillies; Don Robinson – 7.0 innings in the second game of a doubleheader on July 14 vs. Giants).

GO JOE: Connor Joe has reached base safely in each of his last 11 games, going 13-for-36 (.361) with seven doubles, five RBI, .500 OBP, .556 slugging percentage and 1.056 OPS…Joe ranks second among all National League players this month with a .441 OBP and eighth in slugging (1.015).

MITCH KELLER: The 27-year-old righthander will make his 27th start of the season tonight…He outdueled Minnesota’s Sonny Gray in his last start on 8/19 at Target Field, winning a 7-4 decision while striking out 12 batters in 6.0 innings…Gray took a perfect game into the sixth inning before being charged with the loss.

VS. CHICAGO (NL): 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA (38.2ip/22er) in nine career appearances (eight starts)…Has not faced the Cubs this year…Went 1-1 in two appearances last year after allowing one run in 2.2 innings while earning the win in his first career appearance out of the bullpen…He also started and lost a 3-2 decision (6.0ip/2er) at Wrigley Field on 9/22/22.

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