Cubs Couldn’t Come Up with a Clutch Hit – Pirates 2, Cubs 1

Game Seventy-Three: Cubs 1, Pirates 2

WP – Brandon Cumpton (3-2) LP – Jason Hammel (6-5) Save – Mark Melancon (12)

It was another frustrating day for the Cubs as the offense could not come up with a clutch hit and lost the rubber game of the series to the Pirates. The Cubs put two runners in scoring position in the eighth and runners on the corners with no outs in the ninth and managed only one run. The Cubs were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. The Cubs are now 7-13 in one-run games.

Jason Hammel put together a good outing and made only two mistakes in his seven innings of work. Hammel served up a solo homer to Travis Snider leading off the third and walked Chris Stewart, the Pirates back-up catcher, following Snider’s longball. Stewart scored the Pirates second run without a ball leaving the infield. Stewart was bunted to second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored when Josh Harrison smoked an infield single off Jason Hammel. Hammel retired the Pirates in order in three of the seven innings he completed.

Jason Hammel took the loss after allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Hammel threw 108 pitches, 70 for strikes, over seven innings.

Neil Ramirez was shaky in the eighth but kept the Pirates from tacking onto their lead. James Russell and Pedro Strop retired the Pirates in order in the ninth.

The offense made Brandon Cumpton look very good Sunday afternoon. Cumpton faced one over the minimum on just 57 pitches through five innings. Cumpton ended up with seven innings of two-hit shutout ball. The Cubs managed only two walks on the afternoon.

The Cubs had one scoring chance over the first seven innings and did not put the leadoff hitter on until Junior Lake led off the eighth with a bunt single.

Nate Schierholtz (0-for-3 with a RBI and a walk) drove in the Cubs lone run when he grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a run scored) scored after he led off the ninth with a single.

Starlin Castro (1-for-4) collected one of the Cubs six singles. Ryan Sweeney (1-for-3), Junior Lake (1-for-2), Darwin Barney (1-for-3) and Jason Hammel (1-for-2) all singled on Sunday as well.

With Sunday’s loss (4-8 on Sunday in 2014), the Cubs dropped to 31-42 on the season.

Jason Hammel and Brandon Cumpton put zeroes on the board in the first and second inning. Hammel needed 30 pitches, 19 for strikes, to record his first six outs.

Travis Snider led off the third and gave the Pirates a quick lead. Snider launched a solo homer just to left of straight away center … 1-0 Pirates. Hammel walked back-up catcher Chris Stewart after Snider’s homer. Brandon Cumpton bunted Stewart to second with one out. Gregory Polanco continues to be a difference maker for the Pirates. Polanco hit a slow roller toward second that Barney fielded and tossed to Rizzo (glove-to-glove) for the out. But Polanco’s productive out set up the Pirates second run. Stewart advanced to third on the play. Josh Harrison smoked a 2-2 pitch back up the middle that hit Hammel on the backside. The ball rolled toward third, Steward scored and the Pirates took a 2-0 lead. Harrison swiped second but Hammel struck out Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the inning. Hammel threw 51 pitches, 31 for strikes, over the first three innings.

The Cubs continued making Brandon Cumpton’s day rather easy. The Cubs went down in order in the third and allowed Cumpton to throw only 33 pitches, 23 for strikes, over the first three innings.

After three complete, the Cubs trailed 2-0.

And that is the way the score remained until the bottom of the ninth inning after the Cubs failed to come up with a clutch hit in the eighth with runners on second and third with one out.

Anthony Rizzo led off the ninth with a single to right. Starlin Castro followed with a single to right off Mark Melancon. Rizzo advanced to third with no outs. Melancon struck out Luis Valbuena swinging for the first out. Nate Schierholtz grounded into what should have been a game-ending double play. After Harrison fielded Schierholtz’s grounder, his flip to second was high and pulled Mercer off the bag. Rizzo scored and cut the Pirates lead to 2-1. Junior Lake flied out to right to end the game.

The entire roster had a bad day at the plate. The Cubs did not make Brandon Cumpton work whatsoever and the Pirates’ pen is simply too much for the Cubs right now.

The Cubs begin a three-game series with the Reds at Wrigley on Monday night (7:05pm CDT). Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to face Alfredo Simon in the opener.

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax