Game Nine: Cubs 4, Pirates 5
WP – Gerrit Cole (2-0) LP – James Russell (0-1, BS 1) Save – Jason Grilli (3)
The Cubs played very good baseball for six innings on Thursday before the wheels fell off in the seventh inning. The Cubs took advantage of Pirates miscues and built a 4-0 lead. Travis Wood started the seventh inning with a three-hit shutout intact but Rick Renteria went to his pen after Wood gave up a leadoff double to Neil Walker. Brian Schlitter and James Russell gave up the lead and the game after being charged with four runs on two big flies … a two-run, pinch hit homer by Travis Snider and a three-run shot off the bat of Pedro Alvarez.
The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth after Ryan Sweeney walked to start the inning and Starlin Castro collected his third hit of the game. Jason Grilli struck out Luis Valbuena and Welington Castillo. Darwin Barney walked to load the bases ahead of Emilio Bonifacio grounding out to first to end the game.
The Cubs lost another one-run game to the Pirates. All but one of the six games against Pittsburgh this season (2-4) has been decided by a single run.
Travis Wood was very good once again. The only run he was charged with scored after he left the game on Travis Snider’s two-run homer. Wood wiggled his way out of a big jam in the third inning by striking out Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez with the bases loaded to end the inning. Wood went onto strike out six batters in a row on his way to tying a career-high (9) in strikeouts. Wood left the game in line for his first win of the season and ended up being charged with one run on four hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. Wood threw 106 pitches, 65 for strikes, in six-plus innings.
Brian Schlitter and James Russell could not keep the ball in the yard. After Schlitter served up the two-run shot to Travis Snider that cut the Cubs lead to 4-2, Schlitter gave up a one-out single to Starling Marte before issuing a two-out walk to Andrew McCutchen. James Russell was summoned from the pen and his first pitch to Pedro Alvarez ended up on top of the batters eye in center for a three-run homer. Schlitter and Russell were charged with a combined four runs on three hits (two home runs) and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon kept the Bucs off the board in the eighth and ninth innings, but the Cubs offense could not push across a run against the Pirates’ pen.
Starlin Castro (3-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored) collected three more hits and scored the Cubs’ fourth run on a controversial call at the plate. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) reached base two times and scored a run while Welington Castillo (1-for-4 with a RBI) singled in Castro in the fourth … and his fourth inning single was the Cubs last hit until Castro’s single in the ninth.
Emilio Bonifacio (0-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two stolen bases) created the Cubs’ first run of the game in the third inning. Bonifacio reached on an error by Gerrit Cole, stole second and scored on the same play when Tony Sanchez’s throw ended up in centerfield.
Mike Olt (0-for-3 with two strikeouts) and Junior Lake (0-for-3 with two strikeouts) went a combined 0-for-6 against the right hander with four strikeouts.
The Cubs managed six singles on Thursday and went 2-for-9 with RISP and left six men on base.
With Thursday’s loss, the Cubs ended up with a 2-4 homestand and slipped to 3-6 on the season.
The Cubs took what the Pirates were willing to give them in the third inning. Gerrit Cole struck out Castillo and Wood to start the inning. Emilio Bonifacio tapped a 1-2 pitch back to Cole that the Pirates’ hurler bobbled then had no play on the speedy Bonifacio. With Ryan Kalish at the plate, Bonifacio took off for second base. Tony Sanchez’s throw was into the runner and ended up in center. McCutchen did not hustle in to get the ball, and Gary Jones waived Bonifacio around third. Bonifacio scored standing up when the throw to the plate was high and well off the mark. Cole caught Kalish looking to end the inning … but the Cubs took a 1-0 lead into the fourth thanks to the lackadaisical play by the Pirates and excellent baserunning by Emilio Bonifacio.
Travis Wood struck out the side in the fourth, five straight strikeouts for Wood at the time. Wood needed 73 pitches, 47 for strikes, to complete four innings on Thursday afternoon.
Anthony Rizzo led off the fourth with a single to right center through the shift. Nate Schierholtz followed with a single to right center. Rizzo ended up at third with no outs. Junior Lake struck out but Schierholtz stole second as Lake went down swinging. Clint Hurdle brought his infield in with runners on second and third with one out. Starlin Castro singled to left (3-1 pitch), Rizzo scored, 2-0 Cubs. Schierholtz stopped at third with one down. A 0-2 pitch to Mike Olt skipped past Tony Sanchez, Schierholtz scampered in and scored, 3-0 Cubs. Castro advanced to second on the play. Cole struck out Olt for the second out. Welington Castillo pulled a 0-1 pitch into left field. Jones waived Castro around third. Starling Marte made a strong throw to the plate and the ball beat Castro by several feet. But Tony Sanchez did not give Castro a clean lane to the plate. Under the new collision rule, the runner is safe and the play cannot be challenged. Castro scored, 4-0 Cubs. While the Pirates were trying to figure out what was going on, Castillo kept running and ended up at third with two down. Cole hit Wood with his first pitch. Bonifacio flied out to left center to end the inning. (Update from the Tribune on the play at the plate: Homeplate umpire Mark Carlson told reporters no collision rules came into effect on Castro’s run in fourth. Castro’s foot touched the plate before the catcher had possession and control of the ball.)
After a wild fourth inning, the Cubs led 4-0.
The game remained 4-0 Cubs through the fifth and sixth innings. Wood started the seventh with a three-hit shutout after throwing 104 pitches, 63 for strikes, over the first six innings. Neil Walker led off the seventh with a double to left center. Renteria decided that was enough for Wood and went to his pen for Brian Schlitter.
Clint Hurdle countered the move and sent up Travis Snider to hit for Clint Barmes. Snider launched a 3-2 pitch to straight away center. The ball ended up in the shrubbery and Snider’s second homer in as many days cut the Cubs lead to 4-2. Travis Ishikawa hit for Cole and flied out to left for the first out. Starling Marte followed with a single to right (0-2 pitch). Jose Tabata hit a soft liner to short. Castro caught the ball and tried to double off Marte. But the throw was off the mark. Marte could not advance on the miscue. Schlitter jumped ahead of McCutchen 1-2 but could not put him away. Schlitter walked McCutchen and put two on with two down for Pedro Alvarez. Renteria went to his pen for lefty James Russell. Alvarez was sitting on Russell’s first pitch and drilled a three-run homer to center … and just like that the Cubs trailed 5-4. Russell walked Gaby Sanchez. Renteria went to his pen for the third time. Justin Grimm replaced Russell, Bonifacio moved to third and Darwin Barney entered the game at second base. Grimm broke Tony Sanchez’s bat and he hit a soft one-hopper toward the 5.5 hole. Bonifacio cut the ball off and threw out Gaby Sanchez at second to end the inning.
The Cubs hit the road on Friday and open a three-game series against the Cardinals. Jeff Samardzija is schedule to face Joe Kelly under the Friday night lights (7:15pm CDT).