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JT Brubaker focused on leading Pirates after blowout loss to Cubs

Apr 14, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker (34) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

JT Brubaker hasn’t pitched like an Opening Day starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates yet this season.

However, he’s fared relatively well against the Chicago Cubs.

The right-hander will try for a fourth time to pick up his first victory of the season Sunday while looking to help the Pirates win a road series against the Cubs for the first time since 2018 and overcome Saturday’s 21-0 blowout loss.

Brubaker (0-2, 7.30 ERA) tied for the Pirates’ lead among starters with five wins last season and earned the 2022 Opening Day nod.

However, he’s allowed 12 runs — 10 earned — with 11 hits and nine walks while striking out 13 over 12 1/3 innings in his first three starts this year.

But Brubaker does have something solid to build on after following a four-run second inning in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss at Milwaukee by finishing with three straight scoreless frames. Only two of those runs were earned, and Brubaker gave up just two hits and fanned six with a pair of walks.

“(Those) third, fourth and fifth (innings) are how I need to pitch,” Brubaker told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I know that. I need to attack guys.”

Brubaker is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs. He did, however, allow three runs, four hits and two walks over three innings of a 7-6 loss in his first start at Wrigley Field on Sept. 4.

He’ll also try to contain a Cubs offense that helped snap the club’s four-game losing streak with Saturday’s rout of the Pirates.

Pittsburgh starting pitchers are 0-8 with a 6.68 ERA this season.

Chicago managed 12 runs in its previous four contests, and just five while losing the first two of this four-game set to Pittsburgh.

But the Cubs banged out 23 hits during their highest-scoring game since a 26-7 win at Colorado on Aug. 18, 1995.

Meanwhile, according to STATS, Saturday’s defeat featured the most runs Pittsburgh has allowed since a 21-4 loss to the New York Giants on May 25, 1954.

Chicago’s Ian Happ is 4-for-12 with two doubles against Brubaker and had three hits with two RBIs on Saturday. Seiya Suzuki was 1-for-11 in the previous four games but had three hits, as did Willson Contreras and Alfonso Rivas, who also had five RBIs.

Chicago shortstop Nico Hoerner, with a career-high four hits in five at-bats Saturday, is 8-for-12 in the last three games.

“We’ve been working hard in the cage,” Rivas told Marquee Sports Network. “Approach-wise, swing-wise. You know, it’s all the time we’re putting in, and very happy it paid off.”

The Cubs will turn to Justin Steele (1-1, 4.50 ERA) in an effort to earn a series split Sunday.

The left-hander pitched five scoreless innings vs. Milwaukee in his season debut but has yielded six runs, eight hits and five walks over seven innings to Colorado and Tampa Bay in the two that followed.

Pittsburgh’s Daniel Vogelbach has never faced Steele, but he’s batting .333 (7-for-21) during a six-game hitting streak. He recorded one of the Pirates’ three hits on Saturday.

Pittsburgh last claimed a winning road series over the Cubs when they took two of three games in April 2018.

–Field Level Media