Chicago (6-5) avenged a home-opening loss with a 13-5 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night. The Cubs racked up 16 hits, which included a pair of home runs by Javier Baez.
Baez now has four home runs in his last eight at-bats. He does not want to publicly declare a goal for home runs this season, but he would not mind maintaining a hot bat in the series finale.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Baez said to WGN-TV after the game. “I’m trying to forget about the launch angle and all this stuff that messes with my mind. When I get in the box, I’m just going to (focus on) me and the pitcher and forget about everything else.”
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh (8-3) is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this year. The Pirates have outscored opponents 71-57 on the season and boast a 4-1 record away from home.
Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (2-0, 1.59 ERA) is scheduled to make his third start in the finale. Williams turned in a no-hit performance for six innings in his season debut against the Detroit Tigers, and he allowed 10 hits but just two runs in 5 1/3 innings in his second outing against the Cincinnati Reds.
In five career games (three starts) against the Cubs, Williams has not been at his best. He is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in 18 2/3 innings. During that span, he has walked 10 and struck out 13.
For the Cubs, right-hander Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 4.09 ERA) also will make his third start. The third-place finisher in the 2016 National League Cy Young Award voting is 38-22 in his career but remains in search of his first victory of the season.
In 10 career starts against Pittsburgh, Hendricks is 4-2 with a 3.23 ERA. He has struck out 49 and walked nine in 55 2/3 innings. Last year, he went 1-1 in three starts against the Pirates, allowing five runs in 17 2/3 innings for a 2.55 ERA.
Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco seems to have Hendricks’ number. He is hitting .409 (9-for-22) during his career with one home run and two RBIs against the methodical hurler from the Ivy League.
Pittsburgh hitters Francisco Cervelli (1-for-13) and Josh Bell (1-for-11) have not enjoyed the same type of success against Hendricks. However, Josh Harrison is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with a solo homer.
As for the Cubs, third baseman Kris Bryant is 2-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and four walks in his career against Williams, an Arizona State product. Catcher Willson Contreras is 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs.
Kyle Schwarber (1-for-7) and Jason Heyward (1-for-6) have not fared as well against Williams during their careers. Baez is 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk, and his hot bat could keep him in the lineup.
Hard-fought series are nothing new to these division rivals. Last year, the Cubs edged the Pirates for a 10-9 season-series win.