Pirates, Cubs are familiar foes

Pirates, Cubs are familiar foes

PITTSBURGH -- A lot has been made of the fact the Pirates have had their troubles with the Chicago Cubs this season. And with good reason, what with the Cubs having taken eight of the nine games between the two heading into a series at PNC Park this weekend.

But while going 1-8 against a team might have the effect of making a team sick of seeing that particular opponent, the Bucs and Cubs have played so often in the early season that just seeing the same faces and same jerseys has become somewhat tedious.

By Sunday, the two teams would have played 12 of their respective 50 games to that point against each other. That means that 20 percent of the time, or one of every five games, when the Pirates have taken the field in 2008, it will have been for a game against the Cubs.

"I don't think you get sick of it," Bucs manager John Russell said, "but I think you get a little more ... not monotonous ... I don't know what the word is I would use. I just remember as a player, when you kept playing the same team a lot, they kind of started to run together a little bit. You like the different look of going to a different stadium, just the differences that you see."

The nuances of an unbalanced schedule usually lead to quirks such as the Pirates and Cubs becoming very acquainted with each other so early -- the peculiar part is that they do not meet again until August.

Other idiosyncrasies with the Bucs' early schedule had them finished playing National League opponents Florida (by April 22) and Atlanta (by May 11) before they played even one game against divisional rival Milwaukee, whom the Pirates will meet 15 times -- including 12 times after July 4th.

Outfielder Jason Bay said the team has learned to live with such quirks.

"Usually, it's the Brewers every year we play a ton [early], [yet] we just played them for the first time," Bay said. "It's weird. It seems like it happens every year, we play one team a little more than all the others. And unfortunately for us, it just seems the Cubs have had our number."

Throwing out games against Chicago, the Bucs would be 21-17 this season, good for a .553 winning percentage. Only four NL teams -- including, yes, the Cubs -- have been better than that so far this season.

Despite the repetitiveness, Russell said the competitiveness of the players will make it a non-issue come game time.

"The biggest thing is once the game starts, then it doesn't matter," Russell said. "I remember as a player, you forgot all that and it was, 'Hey, let's go play.' That's the way we handled it. This is the last time we play them for a little while. Once the game starts, it won't matter."

Chris Adamski is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.