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Preview: Pirates at Cubs

Current Conditions – Chicago
SUNNY 77 °F
Wind: NNW 12
5-Day Forecast GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (95-60) at Chicago Cubs (89-65)
DATE/TIME: Sunday, September 27 – 8:08 PM EST
WHERE: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
LINE: N/A TOTAL: N/A

Jake Arrieta has been nearly untouchable against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, a trend the Chicago Cubs hope holds up through at least two more matchups. Arrieta, who is expected to start the National League wild-card game – likely against the Pirates – on Oct. 7, takes the mound Sunday in the finale of a three-game series between the NL Central rivals.

The Cubs celebrated Saturday – despite a 4-0 loss – after clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2008 when San Francisco lost late Friday. The Pirates were more low-key in their celebration last week, as they have designs on overtaking St. Louis for the division title. The Pirates have won eight straight to trim the deficit to 2 1/2 games with a three-game home series against the Cardinals starting Monday. If they can’t catch the Cardinals, they’ll have to deal again with Arrieta, who is 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in eight career starts against Pittsburgh, including 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA in four meetings this season.

TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN

PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH A.J. Burnett (9-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Jake Arrieta (20-6, 1.88)

Burnett struggled with his command Monday at Colorado, but he still picked up his first win since July 20. The 38-year-old issued four walks and allowed three runs (two earned) over 5 2/3 innings in his third start since coming off the disabled list. Burnett is 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 16 starts against the Cubs, including 1-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three meetings this season.

Arrieta has made a strong case for the Cy Young Award with an incredible second half, going 10-1 with a 0.86 ERA since the All-Star break. The 29-year-old has won nine straight decisions, and the Cubs haven’t lost a game he started since July 25 against Philadelphia. Arrieta threw his second shutout in five outings when he struck out 11 in a three-hitter against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

WALK-OFFS

1. Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen is a career .337 hitter in 55 games at Wrigley Field.

2. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant has 62 extra-base hits, the most by an NL rookie since 2007.

3. Pirates C Francisco Cervelli is 11-for-26 during a six-game hitting streak.

PREDICTION: Cubs 3, Pirates 1