Pirates aim for sweep of stumbling Cubs

Heading into the third and final game of their series Thursday, the Chicago Cubs and host Pittsburgh Pirates are in the same boat -- going nowhere.

The two National League Central teams are both eliminated from postseason contention.

The Pirates have been playing for pride and player development for some time. The Cubs were dumped from the playoff race Wednesday, not only because they lost 4-2 at Pittsburgh but also because the Milwaukee Brewers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Cincinnati Reds.

Pittsburgh (67-91) will go for a series sweep Thursday against the Cubs (82-76), who have lost eight in a row.

While there are still four games left in the season, attention also will turn to potential offseason moves by the two teams.

Speculation about the fate of Cubs manager Joe Maddon has swirled for some time. On his weekly radio show Wednesday, he said he was "very optimistic" about the future and will engage in discussions with management.

Chicago general manager Theo Epstein, speaking before the Wednesday game, addressed the club's September collapse.

"The extreme nature of it, you know, the degree to which we've stumbled here down the stretch is definitely surprising," he said. "It's not something you anticipate, but it's happened, so we have to try to learn from it, try to grow from it."

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle told The Athletic he will return next year, and multiple reports said general manager Neal Huntington and team president Frank Coonelly also will be retained.

In a statement, Huntington said, "As we have in the past, we will publicly address any personnel decisions at the end of the season."

The Pirates made it official Wednesday that Josh Bell (groin), Starling Marte (wrist), Elias Diaz (knee) and Cole Tucker (knee), who have been out of the lineup lately, are shut down for the final games of the season.

In addition, rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds left the Wednesday game due to right hamstring discomfort. He got hurt attempting to beat a throw to first.

It's not clear if Reynolds, too, will be shut down. He was in the race for the National League batting title but cooled recently. He is 0-for-6 in the Cubs series, leaving him with a .314 batting average that ranks seventh in the NL.

The Cubs are playing without Javier Baez (thumb) and Kris Bryant (ankle), although Baez was able to pinch-run Wednesday.

In the series finale, Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana (13-8, 4.55 ERA) is slated to face Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove (10-12, 4.49).

Musgrove has won his past two decisions after losing three in a row. On Sept. 19, he gave up four runs, two earned, and five hits to Seattle over five innings, with six strikeouts and two walks. He left with the lead but did not get a decision in a game the Pirates lost 6-5 in 11 innings.

He has a 2.86 ERA over his past four starts.

Against the Cubs, Musgrove is 2-2 with a 1.47 ERA in six career starts. This year, he has faced Chicago three times, going 0-1 with a 1.08 ERA.

Quintana also is coming off a no-decision. He gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings Saturday against St. Louis, and the Cubs went on to fall 9-8.

Over his past six starts, he has an 8.49 ERA, allowing at least four runs allowed in five of those contests.

In 10 career starts against Pittsburgh, Quintana is 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA. That includes going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts -- all Chicago wins -- this year.

--Field Level Media
Copyright © 2019 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.