Mon, 27 Jun 2022

Pirates, with hot hitter but few wins, to meet struggling Cubs

Field Level Media
20 Jun 2022, 15:25 GMT+10

Things aren't going too well for the Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Chicago Cubs, who open a four-game series Monday.

At least, the Pirates can say they are coming off a hat trick of sorts. No, not three wins in a row -- they have lost 11 of their past 13 games -- but a 4-3 win on Sunday againstthe San Francisco Giants that came in a special way.

Jack Suwinski hit his third homer of the game in the bottom of the ninth, prompting the Pittsburgh home crowd to toss hats on the field, a la a Pittsburgh Penguins hat trick.

Many of the positives for the Pirates this season have involved rookies, Suwinski included.

Pittsburgh has seen 11 players make their big-league debut, and that list is about to grow. Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton confirmed that touted prospect Oneil Cruz, considered the team's shortstop of the future, is being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, along with outfielder Bligh Madris.

Cruz, since May 15, is batting .299 with seven homers.

"Now is the time that we think he can help us," Shelton said.

The Cubs, who fell to visiting Atlanta 6-0 on Sunday, have also lost 11 of 13.

Chicago, also like Pittsburgh, has gone rookie-heavy this season, with 15 seeing playing time.

That includes 10 pitchers, and a reliance on young arms could continue, especially because a rule kicks in Monday that limits teams to 13 pitchers. The Cubs are expected to go with eight relievers instead of nine and want to have pitchers with minor league options available.

"The 40-man roster flexibility will be really important, too, for teams that are trying to protect that bullpen," Chicago manager David Ross said.

In the series opener, Chicago right-hander Caleb Kilian (0-1, 8.00 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (0-7, 4.50 ERA).

Kilian, 25, will be making his third career start, all of them this month, and first against the Pirates.

He got his only decision Wednesday when he gave up five runs and five hits in a loss to the visiting San Diego Padres, with no strikeouts and five walks.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told the Chicago Sun-Times that having Kilian at the major league level is beneficial for "getting to spend time with him, talk to him between outings and ... see how his routine is, all those little things -- I think we're even more excited than just watching the game, getting to have that one-on-one time with him as the season goes on.

"I think he's got a good understanding of how his stuff plays here, and then, what are the things that we want to continue to work on?"

That might include a new changeup, which Kilian developed during the offseason but has not used in his two big-league starts.

Brubaker hasn't notched a win since Aug. 24, 2021, yet he has a 3.21 ERA over his past five starts. Most recently, Brubaker allowed three runs, two of them earned, in 5 1/3 innings Tuesday in a 3-1 loss at St. Louis.

Against the Cubs, Brubaker is 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in seven career games, six of them starts. That includes going 0-1 in two starts this season. On May 17, he struck out a career-high 10 in a 7-0 loss.

--Field Level Media

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