Pirates-Cubs Preview

It's a small sample size, but for the Chicago Cubs so far, the kids are all right.

Addison Russell was the latest rookie to make a contribution, and he's expected to make his Wrigley Field debut Monday night when the Cubs host a Pittsburgh Pirates team in search of its sixth straight win.

The 21-year-old was called up last week, joining fellow highly touted prospects Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler in the big leagues as Chicago (10-7) appears to have finished rebuilding. While Russell has yet to find his offensive stride - he's just 3 for 22 in his first five games - he did deliver a bases-loaded double to cap a four-run fourth in Sunday's 5-2 victory at Cincinnati.

"I'm just understanding this whole process," Russell said. "It may be overnight, it may take a few games, it may take a few at-bats. I'm just trying to stay patient and stay with my approach and believe in my talent."

His first appearance at the Friendly Confines, where he told MLB.com's official website that his parents and fiancee will be in attendance, could provide an additional sense of ease.

"He's going to keep coming offensively," manager Joe Maddon said. "Defensively, he'll get more used to playing where he's supposed to be, and that's when you'll see even better play at second base."

Bryant went 0 for 4 with a run scored but he's still batting .333 over his first nine major league games. Soler, though, could be in line for a day off since he's 0 for 15 with 10 strikeouts over his last four games.

Vance Worley (2-1, 4.00 ERA) kept the trio in check Wednesday in a 4-3 victory, limiting them to two hits in 12 combined at-bates. It was part of a workmanlike effort by the right-hander, who yielded an unearned run and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to improve to 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five lifetime starts versus Chicago.

The Pirates (11-8) started their winning streak by taking the final two games of their four-game set versus the Cubs and are coming off a three-game sweep at Arizona. Francisco Liriano and three relievers combined on a three-hitter as Pittsburgh rolled to an 8-0 win Sunday, giving the starters a 1.71 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 31 2-3 innings during the Pirates' run.

We're playing better baseball and it continues to start with our mound work," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Neil Walker went 3 for 4 with a two-run double, capping a successful series in which he went 7 for 12 and extended his hitting streak to nine games. The second baseman has also enjoyed success against scheduled Cubs starter Travis Wood (1-1, 3.24), going 7 for 20 with a homer and two doubles.

Wood did not get a decision Tuesday against Pittsburgh, yielding three runs - two on solo homers - and four hits in five-plus innings before Chicago rallied for a 9-8 win. The left-hander's lone start at home in the young season was a good one - scattering three hits and two walks in seven innings of a 5-0 victory over Cincinnati.

He has yet to beat the Pirates at Wrigley Field, however, going 0-5 with a 5.28 ERA in six starts, and Wood was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in 1 2-3 innings of the most recent one - a 10-4 defeat Sept. 7.


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