Thu Jul 11 7:14pm ET
Two years ago, Chris Archer and Yu Darvish were All-Stars. Now they are both trying to regain All-Star form, or something close to it.
They will face off when the regular season resumes for Archer's visiting Pittsburgh Pirates and Darvish's Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon.
It's an important series for both National League Central foes. The Pirates find themselves just 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs for first place in the tightest division race in the majors.
"We're going to need to play better, and I think we, as a team, expect that," Cubs star Kris Bryant told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We completely underperformed in the first half. We let some games get away from us that we could easily have won. The questions and stories would be different right now, but we didn't do that and it's a little disappointing. But there are still a lot of games to be played."
The Pirates are waiting for Archer to turn things around. The right-hander enters the second half at 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts, and he has only pitched beyond six innings twice this season.
Archer and Darvish lead the NL in home runs allowed with 20 each, though Darvish has done so in three more starts. Archer gave up two homers to the Cubs in his last start before the break on July 3, and will be pitching on the north side of Chicago for the fourth time in his career.
Darvish (2-4, 5.01) is second in the league in wild pitches with eight and has six hit batters. He has yet to win at home this season and is 0-6 in his career at Wrigley Field.
The Pirates are powered by All-Star slugger Josh Bell, who led the majors at the break with 30 doubles and 84 RBIs and leads Pittsburgh with 27 home runs.
Bell was asked during All-Star festivities in Cleveland if he thinks the Pirates will make some moves to bolster their chances in the Central. He didn't seem to think much is needed.
"Hey, this is the squad we need. We may need one or two (more) guys here and there, but the guys we have right now are the guys who are going to take us to the next level and the guys who are going to take us to the postseason," Bell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Cubs have not been playing especially well of late, and figure to be buyers in the trade market with a half-game division lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. Chicago is 8-12 in its last 20 games, 13-17 in the last 30 and 15-16 against division opponents this season.
The Cubs are 3-4 against the Pirates this season, with just one run separating the teams in total runs scored against each other, 37 for Pittsburgh and 36 for the Cubs.
--Field Level Media