Sporting a Pirates uniform for close to three seasons during his playing career, Cubs manager Dale Sveum understands what it means for the city of Pittsburgh to have a winning season under its belt.
"It's been a long time coming. There's obviously a really good atmosphere here for the whole season, and you're happy for the city and the fans because they've had to endure a lot," Sveum said. "Now they have a good enough team to get in the playoffs, and because of their pitching, they could get deep in the playoffs."
After a 3-1 win over the Cubs on Thursday, the Pirates are tied for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals, who lost to the Brewers on Thursday. They'll take the field on Friday against the Cubs at PNC Park looking for their fifth straight win.
Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.44 ERA) gets the nod for the Bucs after getting a bit of a scare in his last start, against St. Louis on Sunday. The right-hander had to leave the start after just 1 2/3 innings because of a reoccurance of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"He was getting some pitches up, and also fell behind," catcher John Buck said of Morton after the start. "Still, it wasn't like they were hitting him that hard. They dropped some balls into that Bermuda Triangle [of left- and right-center]."
The discomfort in his left foot has now passed and Morton feels ready to go for Friday's start. He'll look to continue an impressive streak that has seen him go 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last seven starts.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta (2-2, 4.28 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season for the Cubs after a loss to the Brewers on Saturday. In that game, he allowed four runs on three hits in five innings.
Arrieta also walked three or more for the fifth time in his last six starts, while holding opponents to a .178 batting average.
"I've been here before, and I know what I have to do to correct it," he said after the game. "I'll be all right moving forward."
Cubs: Six-man rotation helping Samardzija
The Cubs' recent switch to a six-man rotation is not only giving Scott Baker more starts, but it should also help Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija was shut down last season on Sept. 8 after compiling 174 2/3 innings in 28 starts, his first season in the rotation. On Wednesday, he made his career-high 30th start and is at 194 2/3 innings and 195 strikeouts.
"He's never been there before," Sveum said of the right-hander, who has given up 17 runs in 18 1/3 innings in his last three outings. "I'm not going to say that's the reason for the struggles. The last two outings [against the Marlins and Reds] have been in the worst heat of the year. Who knows? You don't have the answers for everything. The bottom line is being able to make that pitch."
Pirates: Wandy throws simulated game
Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is getting closer to a possible return after throwing a simulated game before Thursday night's game against the Cubs.
Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6, and was later transferred to the 60-day DL. He dealt with discomfort in that arm throughout August, but was given the go-ahead to begin a throwing program on Sept. 3.
"We'll wait till we get to the next step. It's one thing at a time. We'll see how he throws today and we'll see how he feels tomorrow, and then we'll plan out the next step," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he's getting close, but we're going to find out more today with him throwing four innings and trying to get to 70 pitches, that will give us more information to work with and then you add that on to how he feels tomorrow and those will be indicators to help us decide and map out what's in front of us."
• The Cubs have 33 wins on the road this season, 10 more than their total on the road last year.
• The Pirates are 61-3 when leading after six innings.
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.