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[June 16, 2017]  It has been seven weeks since the Chicago Cubs won a series on the road, and they return to the site where they last did so when they begin a three-game set against the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. The Pirates have won four of six meetings this season, but Chicago took two of three in Pittsburgh from April 24-26.

Despite a disappointing start that leaves them one game below .500, the Cubs have never fallen more than three games back in the National League Central. "I know we have a nice run in us and it's forthcoming,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters. “It's going to be a combination of our starters getting more deep in games more consistently and our offense getting back to its normal methods. There's nothing to tell me that's not going to happen.” Chicago won five straight to begin its last homestand earlier this month but has dropped six of eight since. The Pirates also have been streaky of late, following a four-game skid with a four-game winning streak before dropping the finale of a three-game set against Colorado on Wednesday.

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

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Eddie Butler (3-2, 4.03 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.13)

Butler threw six scoreless innings in his Cubs debut on May 12 at St. Louis, but he hasn’t posted another quality start in five outings since. The 26-year-old gave up three runs and six hits over five innings in a loss to Colorado on Saturday. Butler made one start and one relief appearance against the Pirates last season, going 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings.

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Williams had put together back-to-back quality starts before he was dinged for five runs and six hits over four innings Saturday in a no-decision against Miami. The 25-year-old has allowed just one run in three of his seven starts, but he hasn’t been able to consistently produce those results. Williams made two relief appearances against the Cubs earlier this season, going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in five innings.


1. Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is 12-for-31 with three homers during a nine-game hitting streak and has homered leading off each of the past two games.

2. Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen is 11-for-23 with two home runs during a six-game hitting streak, raising his average 24 points over that stretch.

3. Chicago has hit 13 home runs in the past four games but is just 2-2 over that span.

PREDICTION: Cubs 7, Pirates 5

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