The last pitcher the Pirates probably want to see on Friday is Jake Arrieta, but the Cubs right-hander will open a three-game series between the National League Central rivals at Wrigley Field.
Arrieta is back on track after taking his first loss of the season on June 5 against the D-backs. The right-hander is 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA in 11 career regular-season starts against the Pirates, and he shut them out in the NL Wild Card Game last October. He's won two meetings this season, holding Pittsburgh to two runs over 15 innings.
The Cubs are 5-1 against the Pirates, sweeping them in Pittsburgh (May 2-4) and winning two of three at Wrigley Field (May 13-15). Chicago has outscored Pittsburgh, 38-13, in the six games.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was looking forward to seeing Pirates rookie Jameson Taillon, who will start the series finale on Sunday night.
"I know he's tall," Maddon quipped of the 6-foot-5 pitcher.
Taillon isn't the only change for the Pirates since they last played the Cubs. Pitcher Gerrit Cole and catcher Francisco Cervelli are both on the disabled list, and Andrew McCutchen is in a hitting funk. After batting .284 in May, McCutchen is 10-for-54 (.185) in 14 games this month. He's had success at Wrigley Field, boasting a .330 career average there.
The Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates all reached the postseason last year, and Maddon expects the trio to be back this October.
"Probably the thing you didn't anticipate was us being in the position we are now," he said of how the NL is shaping up. "We talked about getting off to a good start, and we did. It's a long year, and we know that. We have to take care of the moments right now.
"We knew [the Nationals] would be good, the Cardinals will continue to get better, Pittsburgh will keep getting better," Maddon said. "We haven't seen the Mets yet, and I think they're in the same spot they were last year, so beware."
Things to know about this game
• Francisco Liriano will open the series on Friday for the Pirates. The lefty is 5-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 12 career starts against the Cubs, and he is coming off his worst outing against them. On May 13, he gave up eight runs on nine hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings at Wrigley Field.
• With a left-hander starting Friday, Maddon may tweak the lineup and give some of his regulars a breather. The Cubs entered Wednesday batting .258 against lefties. What's surprising is that they're hitting just .239 overall at home, where they have a 22-8 record.