At the end of play on Sept. 6, Chicago (78-72) was 1 1/2 games behind Central-leading Milwaukee and seemingly in a comfortable wild-card spot. Since then, however, the Cubs are 2-8 and coming off a 1-5 trip that ended by being swept in a three-game set at Arizona — leaving them in a serious fight just to make the postseason.
"We can't sit here and dwell on it too long," rookie Chicago pitcher Jordan Wicks said following Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.
"We've got to get back home, regroup and get ready for Pittsburgh."
Chicago has totaled just 33 runs with an on-base percentage of .312 over the past 10 games. However, the Cubs own a 74-27 run advantage while going 9-1 versus Pittsburgh in 2023. They totaled 28 runs while sweeping a three-game set from the Pirates at home in mid-June.
That history, and returning to the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field for the final six-game homestand of 2023 should give the Cubs some hope of getting back on track and playing like a postseason contender again.
"Looking at the future, still in a good spot," Chicago star Cody Bellinger told MLB.com. "Good amount of games left to play, and just trust the group in here, and myself, to continue to roll and hopefully get on a little hot stretch."
Bellinger is batting .311 on the season, but 7-for-35 in the past nine games. He went 5-for-10 with seven RBIs in his past two games against the Pirates.
Teammate and Pittsburgh native Ian Happ is 8-for-18 in the last four contests. He's batting .370 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in 40 games against the Pirates at Wrigley.
Though Pittsburgh (70-80) has had those issues with the Cubs and is on track for a fifth straight losing season, it's 12-7 since Aug. 28. Rookies Liover Peguero and Jared Triolo each had two hits as Pittsburgh avoided being swept by the New York Yankees with Sunday's 3-2 home victory.
Pittsburgh continues to rely on rookies and young talent down the stretch, with hopes of getting a good glimpse of what's to come down the road.
"We're focusing on the future," rookie Pittsburgh catcher Endy Rodriguez told the club's official website.
"Everybody here knows what we have to do to help the team, and what we have to do to get better for next year."
Peguero is batting .297 with two homers and seven RBIs, while posting a .740 OPS, in his past 17 games. Meanwhile, more established young teammate Jack Suwinski has three homers in six career games at Wrigley Field, located some eight miles from where he grew up.
As of Monday afternoon, neither team announced a starting pitcher for this contest. However, Cubs right-hander Javier Assad (3-3, 3.10 ERA), who allowed one run, three hits, two walks and struck out seven over seven innings of a 10-1 win at Pittsburgh on Aug. 27, appears next in the rotation.
—Field Level Media