Friday, September 12, 2014
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Preview: Cubs at Pirates

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[September 12, 2014]  The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to solidify a spot in the playoffs over the course of their final homestand of the season as they begin a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. Pittsburgh returns home for a string of nine contests after going 6-4 on its 10-game road trip. The trek got off to a rough start as the Pirates were swept of a three-game set in St. Louis before sweeping the Cubs in Chicago and taking three of four at Philadelphia.

Francisco Liriano recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts while scattering four hits over eight dominant innings as Pittsburgh posted a 4-1 triumph over the Phillies on Thursday. The victory moved the Pirates within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central and helped them maintain their 1 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot. Chicago looks to snap its six-game losing streak during which it has been outscored 48-10 and blanked twice.

TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, ROOT (Pittsburgh)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2, 2.95 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Gerritt Cole (8-5, 3.89)

Wada lasted only 3 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh last Friday due to a leg cramp, escaping with a no-decision after allowing three runs - two earned - and three hits. The 33-year-old native of Japan has yielded a total of seven runs in his last two starts after giving up two or fewer in each of his previous five outings. Wada has posted a 2.70 in three road turns but remains in search of his first victory away from home.

Cole improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Cubs after yielding four runs - three earned - and nine hits in six innings at Chicago on Sunday. The 24-year-old helped himself at the plate in the victory, belting his first career home run - a two-run shot in the seventh inning that created a 10-2 lead. Cole has posted a 3-1 record and 3.38 ERA in nine home starts this season.

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1. Pirates LF Starling Marte left Thursday's game in the third inning with soreness in his left arm after being hit by a pitch in the previous frame.

2. The Cubs scored only three runs while allowing 28 as they were swept of a three-game series in Toronto this week.

3. Pittsburgh likely will be without Pedro Alvarez for the remainder of the regular season as the third baseman has a stress reaction in his left foot.

PREDICTION: Pirates 6, Cubs 2

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