Scott Baker finally made it to the end of his road to recovery last week when he made his first big league start since August 2011. Now Baker, as the go-to athlete cliche says, will focus on the next one.
Baker gets his second start in a Cubs uniform — and his second since making it back to the majors following a long recovery process that included Tommy John surgery — on Saturday night, when he leads the North Siders into the third game of a four-game weekend set in Pittsburgh.
Comcast SportsNet will have all the action from the Steel City beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Cubs Pregame Live. Game coverage begins at 6 p.m., with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Cubs Postgame Live follows the NL Central battle, then get the info on the entire day in Chicago sports with the latest edition of SportsNet Central.
Baker and the Cubs hope the right-hander looks as good as he did in his Cubs debut, when he allowed just two hits and a walk to the Milwaukee Brewers over five innings last Sunday at Wrigley Field. Though he was on a 75-pitch limit, he threw just 55 when the game situation led manager Dale Sveum to pull Baker in favor of a pinch-hitter. But, for a guy who hadn't pitched in more than two years, Baker was very impressive.
Baker, who spent the first seven seasons of his major league career with the Minnesota Twins, has never faced the Pirates. Perhaps the unfamiliarity will play into Baker's favor, but the Pirates are a tough opponent, much tougher than the Brewers, a team in the same shape standings-wise as the Cubs.
Pittsburgh is en route to a playoff appearance unless something goes drastically wrong in the season's final weeks. The Pirates entered Saturday in a neck-and-neck race for the NL Central crown, one game back of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs will also be facing someone they've never seen before. Pittsburgh opposes Baker with rookie Gerrit Cole. Much hyped at the time of his promotion as one of baseball's best pitching prospects, Cole has posted a 7-7 record with a 3.48 ERA in 16 starts this season.
Cole could prove to be quite the challenge, too, for the usually offensively challenged Cubs. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 of those 16 starts. And he's coming off a win against the Texas Rangers that saw him strikeout a season-high nine hitters.