The Cubs Jeff Samardzija throws the first pitch in major league baseball Friday as he tries to continue a great season (3.34 ERA) that has been a factor in the Cubs going 25-22 against everyone but the NL Central. The problem is the Cubs play in a division that is 16 1/2 games better than any other division besides the AL East, and Friday they face the first-place Pirates and Francisco Liriano (7-3, 2.23 ERA) at 4:05 ET as Wrigley hosts the only day game.
The game today is between the team with the longest streak without a championship and the team with the longest streak without a winning record – but one would not know that based on how the NL Central is dominating this season.
Samardzija, the former star receiver for Notre Dame, has been brilliant this season (see coverage of April 1 gem here), but with the lowly Houston Astros gone to the AL West, the Cubs have gone only 11-25 against other NL Central teams. The NL Central has a .545 winning percentage against other divisions. The AL East is 8 1/2 games better at .584, but no other division comes close.
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Not only do the Cubs have the misfortune of having to play so many games against the NL Central, but the three best teams in the NL are all in the Central Division in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati (tied with Atlanta for third). The Cubs are coming off a 1-0 loss in Oakland, and they have not scored any runs for Samardzija the last two times they faced the first place Pirates.At 12 games back from the Reds for the last playoff spot, the postseason seems a long shot, however the offense has been improving before the last game.
The Cubs do lead the Milwaukee Brewers by 2 1/2 games for fourth place, and even the Brewers have a shot at going .500 outside the division as they now stand at 22-25.The Cubs and Brewers have combined to go just 15-42 against the top three teams in the division, .500 against teams in the other divisions, and the Brewers have bested the Cubs in five of eight games.
A win over the first place Pirates would give the Wrigley faithful hope, while the Pirates hope to prove they will not repeat the swoon of last year.