Game Thread: It’s time to “Play Ball!” at Wrigley

The Pittsburgh Pirates open the post All-Star break portion of the season with a three game series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, beginning with a game on Friday afternoon at 2:20 p.m. Eastern, when the Pirates’ Chris Archer (3-6, 5.49) will face the Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (2-4, 5.01). The Pirates trail the front runnign Cubs by only 2 12 games in the standings.

Darvish missed most of 2018 with right triceps tendonitis and began this year slowing, with an 8.10 ERA and eleven walks over six and two thirds innings in his first two starts. He’s settled down somewhat since, but has still been prone to ‘blow up’ starts, and has allowed thirteen runs in his last three starts.

Darvish has faced the Pirates twice, on April 10 in Chicago and July 3 in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates winning each game, although he did not walk a batter in either, two of the four times he has accomplished that this year, when he’s average 4.6 walks per nine innings.

Darvish has been very susceptible to left-handed batters this year, allowing a 870 OPS on a 262/335/535 batting line that includes 14 home runs in 209 PA. He’s been much tougher on right-handers, with a 641 OPS on a 185/317/324 batting line. Five of the Pirates’ starting nine will bat left-handed against Darvish.

Archer will be trying to establish some degree of consistent pitching in the second half. After starting 2019 with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings over his first three starts, in the twelve since Archer’s ERA has been a lofty 6.53, although the Pirates have won six of the twelve games. He’s been hamstrung by a painful combination of 5.0 walks and 2.7 home runs allowed per every nine innings.

Archer has pitched equally poorly against batters on both sides of the plate, allowing a 846 OPS to right-handed batters (272/359/487) and 836 to lefties (229/329/507)

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PIRATES

1 L Adam Frazier 2B

2 S Bryan Reynolds LF

3 R Starling Marte CF

4 S Josh Bell 1B

5 S Melky Cabrera RF

6 L Colin Moran 3B

7 R Kevin Newman SS

8 R Jacob Stallings C

9 R Chris Archer RHP

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CUBS

1 L Kyle Schwarber LF

2 R Javier Baez SS

3 R Kris Bryant 3B

4 L Anthony Rizzo 1B

5 S Victor Caratini C

6 L Jason Heyward RF

7 S Robel Garcia 2B

8 R Albert Almora CF

9 R Yu Darvish RHP

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