Finally, the Pittsburgh Pirates have found a team (in their division) that they can beat—the Chicago Cubs. The Bucs are 7-1 so far against the Northsiders of the Windy City, having won the “rubber” game of the third series last night.

Such dominance often occurs when one team is just a little better than the other, but across the board. A year or two ago, the Cubs similarly dominated the Pirates, without being a whole lot better than they are now.

The games have been (mostly) low-scoring close ones, 4-3, 4-2, 3-2, etc., with the sole loss being the wrong end of a 4-3 tally. But the Pirates’ dominance was shown in one 11-1 blowout. Last year, the blowout went the other way, 17-2, with ten runs in the first inning off Charlie Morton.

Speaking of which, all of the starters, except for Zach Duke who hasn’t started against the Cubs (until tonight) have pitched well against them. That includes Maholm, Morton, Burress, Karstens and Ohlendorf. With the one exception mentioned above, the relievers have turned all the starters’ no-decisions into victories.

These starters don’t do so well against third parties, which is why neither their, nor the Pirates overall records are that impressive.  But they appear to have “solved” the Cubs, by holding their run totals below what the Bucs can score on most nights.

With their more consistent pitching and somewhat better hitting, the Cubs have done better against third parties than the Pirates. They went 3-1 against Arizona, and 2-0 against the Colorado Rockies, two teams that usually give the Pirates trouble.

But the Pirates have proven themselves to be a team that one “must” beat in order to be a good team. In years past, the Cubs have met that definition of a good team. This year, they aren’t doing so, which is why they are barely ahead of Pittsburgh in a race for third place.

The Cubs had a good team a few years ago, but with the notable exception of Tom Gorzelanny (acquired from the Pirates), they haven’t been infusing their aging stars with younger players. Meanwhile, the Pirates did trade “Gorzo” for two prospects of younger average age.

The Cubs appear to be getting worse as time goes by. The Pirates, at long last, are getting better. Their paths appear to be crossing as we speak.




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