Cubs Road Struggles Continue in the Steel City – Pirates 6, Cubs 2

Game Sixty-One: Cubs 2, Pirates 6

WP – Charlie Morton (3-7) LP – Edwin Jackson (4-6) Save – None

The Cubs ten-game road trip began on a bad note Monday night in Pittsburgh. The offense showed little if any patience against Charlie Morton while Edwin Jackson was too hittable once again. And the Cubs road woes continued with a 6-2 loss at PNC Park.

Starlin Castro (3-for-4 with a home run, a double and two RBI) provided the Cubs only highlights. Castro doubled in Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a run scored) with the Cubs first run in the sixth inning. And he hit a towering home run in the ninth that sailed over the bullpens beyond the left centerfield wall. Castro drove in both of the Cubs runs and collected three of the team’s eight hits.

The Cubs did little of anything against Charlie Morton in the first four innings. Luis Valbuena (1-for-4) and Starlin Castro collected the Cubs first two hits, and neither one left the infield. Nate Schierholtz (1-for-4 with a double) beat the shift leading off the fifth and doubled to left, the first ball hit out on the infield. The offense did not make Morton work, and he had struggled with his command entering Monday’s start. Morton averaged just over 10 pitches per inning over the first five frames.

Chris Coghlan (1-for-4 with a double) and John Baker (1-for-4) also collected hits in the losing effort.

Edwin Jackson had a rough night. Andrew McCutchen drove in three of the Pirates first four runs with a two-run homer to right in the third and an opposite field double in the fifth. The Pirates squared up Edwin Jackson over his six-inning outing. Four of the seven hits Jackson gave up went for extra bases. Jackson gave up four runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Jackson threw 95 pitches, 65 for strikes, in six innings.

Carlos Villanueva threw a scoreless seventh inning in relief of Jackson. Villanueva was lit up in his second inning of work and gave up two runs on three hits (two doubles, one home run) in the eighth.

With Monday’s loss, the Cubs dropped to 25-36 on the season.

The Pirates got on the board in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez led off the second with a single to center. Starling Marte followed and ended a 0-for-23 slump with a double into the left field corner. Alvarez scored, 1-0 Pirates. Jordy Mercer lined out to second for the first out. Chris Stewart hit a roller up the first baseline that Jackson fielded and took to the bag for the second out. Jackson struck out Morton swinging to end the inning. Jackson needed 29 pitches, 20 for strikes, to get through two innings.

And at the end of two, the Cubs trailed 1-0.

The Cubs continued walking to the plate swinging the bat in the third. Morton retired the Cubs in order again and was allowed to throw only 29 pitches, 22 for strikes, in the first three innings.

Edwin Jackson retired Harrison on a grounder to third for the first out in the third inning. Travis Snider drove Jackson’s first pitch to left. The ball hit the track and hopped over the wall for a ground rule double, his first two basehit of the season. Andrew McCutchen put the game out of reach with an opposite field home run (1-2 pitch). McCutchen’s two-run shot to right put the Pirates up 3-0. Ike Davis flied out to deep right center and Alvarez struck out swinging to end the inning … 42 pitches for Jackson after three, 32 for strikes.

The Pirates led 3-0 after three innings.

Edwin Jackson retired the Bucs in order in the fourth but gave up another run in the fifth … and after two outs.

Edwin Jackson struck out Morton and Harrison swinging to start the fifth. Travis Snider lined a 2-1 pitch over Castro and into left center. Andrew McCutchen just missed is second longball of the game. McCutchen drove a 1-1 pitch to deep right that hit off the wall. Snider scored easily, and even slid in to make sure his uniform needed to be cleaned after the game. Jackson walked Ike Davis before he struck out Alvarez swinging to end the inning. Jackson tossed 82 pitches in five innings, 57 for strikes.

The Cubs were down 4-0 after five innings.

Anthony Rizzo reached on an infield single with two outs in the sixth. Morton retired Bonifacio and Lake on grounders but Rizzo pulled a 0-2 pitch into the shift that Pedro Alvarez could not make a diving stop on in short right. Starlin Castro drove Morton’s first pitch off the wall in right center. Rizzo scored, 4-1 Pirates. Valbuena struck out swinging to end the inning.

Starling Marte ended up at third with one out in the sixth inning after he singled, stole second and went to third when Mercer grounded out to short. Rick Renteria called for a pitch out on the first pitch to Stewart and guessed right. Clint Hurdle called for a suicide squeeze and the Cubs eventually tagged out Marte (2-5-1-4-5-6) after a long run down for the second out. Jackson retired Stewart on a grounder to short for the third out. Jackson threw 95 pitches, 65 for strikes, in the first six innings.

After six complete, the Cubs trailed 4-1.

The game remained 4-1 Pirates until the bottom of the eighth.

Carlos Villanueva pitched a scoreless seventh before the Pirates squared him up in the eighth. Ike Davis led off the eighth with a solo home run to center, 5-1 Pirates. Pedro Alvarez doubled to right and scored on Starling Marte’s third hit of the game, a double to right, 6-1 Pirates. Jordy Mercer reached on an error by Valbuena and the Pirates had two on with no outs. Villanueva struck out Chris Stewart. Gaby Sanchez hit for Mark Melancon and rolled into a 3-6 fielder’s choice. With runners on the corners and two out, Josh Harrison flied out to right to end the inning.

The Pirates were in full control after eight innings and led 6-1.

Starlin Castro led off the ninth with a mammoth shot to left center. Castro’s eighth longball of the season made it a 6-2 game. Jared Hughes retired Valbuena (grounder to second) and Schierholtz (grounder to first) before Chris Coghlan doubled to right. John Baker lined out to left to end the game.

Travis Wood is scheduled to face Francisco Liriano on Tuesday night (6:05pm CDT) in game two of four at PNC Park.

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