Friday, June 20, 2014
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Preview: Pirates at Cubs

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[June 20, 2014]  Navigating through the top of the Pittsburgh lineup is a little more difficult these days and the Chicago Cubs are next to deal with Gregory Polanco and Co. when they host the Pirates on Friday to begin a three-game series. Polanco, a rookie right fielder, set a team record by hitting safely in his first nine career contests and is batting .378 with six RBIs and nine runs scored after recording two hits to help Pittsburgh (35-37) defeat Cincinnati 4-3 in 12 innings on Thursday and snap a three-game slide. Polanco, No. 2 hitter Starling Marte and No. 3 Andrew McCutchen are hitting a combined .376 with 23 RBIs and 20 runs scored since Polanco joined the lineup.

Chicago (30-40), which is 15-14 at Wrigley Field, starts a 10-game homestand after losing three of four in Pittsburgh before winning back-to-back series to finish its road trip 5-5. "Over the last two or three weeks, we've been playing pretty good baseball and bounced back," Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters. The Pirates' Charlie Morton has won three straight decisions and faces Edwin Jackson and the Cubs for the third time this season, with Pittsburgh winning all three.

TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), WGN (Chicago)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Charlie Morton (4-7, 3.09 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Edwin Jackson (4-7, 5.11)

Morton has a 2.37 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 19 innings in his last three turns, including an 8-6 victory at Miami on Saturday when he yielded two runs in seven innings. The 30-year-old New Jersey native won his last start against Chicago after allowing one run while striking out seven in a 6-2 victory June 9 following a pair of no-decisions. Morton, who is 1-3 with a 5.94 ERA in six starts at Wrigley Field, has struggled against Starlin Castro (11-for-24, two homers, six RBIs).

Jackson was roughed up in a 7-4 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday when he yielded seven runs (six earned) and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings - his fifth consecutive non-quality start. The 30-year-old lost his last start against Pittsburgh on June 9 after allowing four runs while striking out eight in six innings following a pair of no-decisions. Jackson, who is 6-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 13 starts against the Pirates, has trouble with McCutchen (12-for-26, three homers, nine RBIs, six walks) and Marte (8-for-17).

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1. Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli blew his fourth save in 15 chances Thursday, two games after taking the loss when he yielded a home run in the ninth inning.

2. Castro is 12-for-25 with two homers, eight RBIs and five runs in his last six games, and his 82 hits are third among shortstops behind Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox and Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki.

3. The Pirates won two of three in their first trip to Chicago this season and are 7-1-1 in their last nine series at Wrigley Field.

PREDICTION: Pirates 3, Cubs 2

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