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Things may be turning around for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who host the sliding Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game series on Friday. After posting a 17-9 record and occupying first place in the National League Central for a period in July, Pittsburgh went 11-17 in August and found itself 10 games behind Cincinnati in the division. The Pirates dropped their first three contests in September, running their losing streak to four, before capturing the final two games of their three-game series with Houston.
While it still trails Cincinnati by 10 games, Pittsburgh is only 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot in the NL. It potentially can make a move this weekend as it takes on a Cubs team that is on a downward spiral. Chicago has lost six straight overall games and 30 of 36 as it owns the second-worst record in the majors (51-86). The Cubs have been just as bad on the road, losing eight in a row and 17 of 18. They were outscored 31-9 while being swept of a four-game series in Washington, making them 0-4 on their 20-game road trip.
Cubs Pirates Betting
When: 7:05 PM ET, Friday, September 7, 2012
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CSN (Chicago), Root Sports (Pittsburgh)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Travis Wood (4-11, 4.64 ERA) vs. Pirates RH A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.63)
Wood is seeking his first victory since topping the Mets in New York on July 6. The 25-year-old is 0-8 in 10 starts since, but has allowed three earned runs or less in six of his last seven outings. Wood, who yielded four runs – two earned – over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against San Francisco on Sunday, fell to 2-3 lifetime versus Pittsburgh on Aug. 1 despite giving up only two runs in five frames.
After surrendering four or more runs in four consecutive starts, Burnett limited the Brewers to two runs and two hits while striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings at Milwaukee on Saturday but was forced to settle for a no-decision. The 35-year-old has lost two of his last three decisions after winning 13 of 14. Burnett improved to 6-0 in seven career starts against the Cubs by tossing a one-hit shutout at Wrigley Field on July 31.
1. Burnett has pitched 14 1/3 scoreless innings in two starts against the Cubs this season, allowing seven hits and four walks while striking out 14.
2. Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker is unlikely to appear in the series due to tightness in his lower back.
3. Cubs SS Starlin Castro needs two hits to become the 28th player in major-league history under the age of 23 to reach the 500-hit plateau.