Lester has pitched at least seven innings in each of his past seven starts, going 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA over that stretch. In his last outing, he beat the Rox 3-2 and piled up 14 whiffs. The lefty beat the Bucs 4-1 earlier in the year, whipping Gerrit Cole. The game starts at 7:05 and will be on ESPN, Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
A little something to watch for, via ESPN Stats & Info: "The Pirates are scheduled to start Francisco Liriano, JA Happ and Jeff Locke (altho Clint said they may rethink that all-lefty lineup). All three rank in the top 12 in pitches thrown in the lower half of the strike zone. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are hitting .433 and .400 against lower-half pitches against the Pirates this season." And don't let the lefty matchups lull you - Rizzo ranks first in the majors in OBP among left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers at .458.
- The FO sent Jaff Decker down to make room for Michael Morse. Pretty predictable, as Jaff was the only bench guy with an option left. That leaves Travis Ishikawa as the sole LH bat available off the pine, S-Rod as the fourth OF'er and three first basemen. There was no need for a 40-man roster move; the team had a space open on that list.
- Pittsburgh is 11-2 in their last 13 home games and are 35-17 overall at PNC Park this season. The Bucs are 4-6 overall against the Cubs, with a 2-2 record at PNC Park
- The Cubs come into town on a five game winning streak and have scored four or more runs in six of their last eight games. They're tied with the Giants for the second wildcard, four games behind Pittsburgh.
- Neil Walker hit his 10th home run of the season Sunday afternoon, extending his club record to six straight seasons of 10+ homers as a second baseman.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer noted that the Reds and Pirates have played 52 games during the past three seasons. In those games, 34 Cincy players have been hit by pitches and 28 Bucs have worn baseballs.