The Cubs and Pirates took a reprieve Friday from the fireworks that started July 4 with the Pirates’ too-tight-for-Cubs’-comfort pitching in Pittsburgh.
But it’s going to be a long, hot weekend in Chicago. And Jordan Lyles — the pitcher who turned Cubs manager Joe Maddon into a raving madman who charged the Pirates’ dugout barely a week ago — is pitching Saturday against cantankerous Cubs veteran Jon Lester.
“We made our point the other day,” Maddon said before the Cubs’ 4-3 victory over the Pirates in the second-half opener. “I’m pretty good at putting things down and moving on. I think our group is also.
“I really don’t anticipate any of that. We came here to play.”
Lyles drew Maddon’s ire with several up-and-in pitches during his start, including multiple pitches near All-Star shortstop Javy Baez’s head during an already rough road trip for the Cubs. Maddon said one thing too many from the dugout and was ejected. He then charged from the dugout toward Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, with umpire Joe West blocking his path.
Maddon said afterward “I can’t wait” to see the Pirates in the first series out of the break. And the Pirates’ pitching style was still fresh in Cubs’ minds Friday.
“It’s a great theory: Throw at Javy’s head three times and throw a slider down and away, and you’re going to get him out,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “Until Major League Baseball steps in and does something, it’s a good formula to get guys out. . . . That’s how the Pirates pitch. And they’ve had success.”
Cubs infielder David Bote was hit in the head by a pitch from reliever Clay Holmes later in same inning Maddon was ejected.
“I’ve noticed that the Pirates do like to pitch inside a lot,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “It hasn’t necessarily always been up. But I think Lyles, a guy with a four-seamer that he’s trying to throw up in the zone, sometimes it goes a little higher and a little more in than he would probably like it to.”
Whatever happens Saturday — or during any of the remaining 11 meetings between these teams — Bryant knows one thing for sure: “We have games to win. We can’t worry about that. We have plenty of other stuff to worry about as a team.”