Close, But No Comeback – Pirates 4, Cubs 3
Game Fourteen – Cubs 3, Pirates 4
WP – Vance Worley (2-1) LP – Jason Hammel (1-1) Save – Tony Watson (1)
Wednesday night in Pittsburgh went down to the last strike. After scoring three runs in the eighth to cut the Pirates lead to 4-3, Anthony Rizzo singled with two outs in the ninth and Kris Bryant stepped in with the tying run on base. Bryant worked a full count, Joe Maddon sent in Travis Wood to run for Rizzo but Bryant struck out swinging to end the game as the Cubs lost to the Pirates on an incredibly cold Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs could not complete the comeback Wednesday, but this team just does not quit … even on a night that it snowed in the seventh inning.
Joe Maddon stepped well outside of the box Wednesday night. As he watched his team compete, Maddon tried to push the right buttons. Maddon had to work around an even shorter bench after Dexter Fowler left the game in the third inning with right groin tightness. Maddon used a majority of his active roster and all of his position players. If the Cubs would have tied the game in the ninth, Kris Bryant would have moved in from center field to play first base and Travis Wood would have played the outfield.
Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with a RBI) put the Cubs on the board in the fourth inning when he grounded out to third and Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a double, a walk and two runs scored). The Cubs could not cut into the Pirates 3-1 lead in the fifth after loading the bases. Bryant flied out to right on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
Again, to the Cubs credit they never stopped grinding. Down 4-1 going into the eighth, the Cubs scored two runs on a single by Miguel Montero (1-for-4 with a RBI) and a groundout by pinch-hitter David Ross. But Addison Russell (1-for-4) hit a soft liner to second to end the inning with the tying run on third base.
Addison Russell picked up his first hit in the third inning.
The Cubs were 2-for-10 with RISP and left 10 men on base.
Jason Hammel could not find a rhythm and had command issues throughout his short outing. Hammel lasted only five innings. And while he didn’t get much help from his defense, Hammel did not have it Wednesday.
Hammel gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Hammel threw 91 pitches, 55 for strikes, before turning the game over to the pen.
The Cubs streak of not allowing an unearned run to score ended in the third inning. Andrew McCutchen reached on a Starlin Castro error and scored the Pirates’ third run. The Cubs were the last team in the majors to allow an unearned run to score this season.
Gonzalez Germen really stepped up and tossed two innings of shutout ball in relief of Hammel. Germen gave up a hit and struck out three batters. Zac Rosscup and Pedro Strop combined on a scoreless eighth.
As long as the Cubs can stay healthy, this team should be in every game it plays this season.
The Cubs defense gave the Pirates extra opportunities in the second inning. And the Cubs mistakes led to the Pirates putting runs on the board.
Starling Marte reached on an infield single. Starlin Castro and Addison Russell appeared to have communication problems on a grounder that was hit up the middle. Marte should have been thrown out at first, instead he reached and moved to second when Pedro Alvarez blooped a single into left center. Fowler could not get to the ball and it fell in between him and Coghlan for a single.
Francisco Cervelli doubled to right, Marte scored and the Pirates took a 1-0 lead. With runners on second and third with no outs, Jung Ho Kang lifted a 2-2 pitch to left. Coghlan caught the ball, but Alvarez tagged and scored … 2-0 Pirates. Hammel retired Vance Worley on a flyout to right and struck out Josh Harrison swinging (3-2 pitch) to end the inning. Jason Hammel needed 36 pitches, 20 for strikes, to complete two innings on Wednesday night.
After two innings, the Cub trailed 2-0.
The Pirates tremendous outfield defense kept the Cubs from at least tying the game in the third.
Addison Russell singled to center with one out, his first hit in the big leagues.
Chris Denorfia hit for Dexter Fowler and chopped a 1-1 pitch over a leaping Josh Harrison and down the left field line. Russell held at third on a double by Denorfia. Jorge Soler struck out swinging (2-2 pitch). Anthony Rizzo drove a 1-1 pitch to deep left center. Starling Marte raced over into the gap and made a sensational running catch to end the inning.
The Cubs defense cost Jason Hammel another run in the third inning.
After Polanco struck out swinging (3-2 pitch) to start the inning, Andrew McCutchen rolled a 1-1 pitch toward short. Starlin Castro fielded the ball, but appeared to drop it in the exchange. McCutchen always hustles and Castro did not have a play. Neil Walker blooped a single to left. And the Pirates had runners on first and second with one out. Hammel plunked Starling Marte on a 1-2 pitch.
With the bases loaded and one out, Pedro Alvarez pulled a 2-1 pitch to right. Soler caught the ball, McCutchen tagged and scored … 3-0 Pirates. Francisco Cervelli grounded out to third to end the inning. Hammel threw 58 pitches, 34 for strikes, in three innings.
The Pirates led 3-0 after three innings.
Kris Bryant led off the fourth inning and drove a 0-1 pitch from Worley to deep right central. Bryant hustled out of the box and ended up at third when Polanco kicked then bobbled the ball. Bryant was credited with a double. And the Cubs had a runner on third with no outs. Starlin Castro grounded out to third, Bryant broke and scored on contact, 3-1 Pirates. Worley retired Miguel Montero on a grounder to short and Chris Coghlan on a flyout to left center to end the inning.
Jason Hammel pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning. And after four complete, the Pirates led 3-1.
Jason Hammel led off the fifth with an infield single to Neil Walker. Russell grounded out to short, Hammel was forced at second for the first out. Denorfia took over at first base after he grounded into a 4-6 force. Jorge Soler and Anthony Rizzo walked to load the bases with two outs.
Vance Worley missed on his first three pitches and Kris Bryant received the greenlight on a 3-0 offering. He swung through the pitch and looked at strike two. Bryant flied out to right to end the inning.
The Cubs could not cut into the Pirates lead in the top of the fifth. And the Pirates tacked on in the home half.
Gregory Polanco led off the fifth and lined a 2-2 pitch to deep right. The ball was elevated just enough to leave the park. And Polanco’s first home run of the season gave the Pirates a 4-1 lead. Hammel retired McCutchen (flyout to center), Walker (lineout to right) and pinch-hitter Andrew Lambo (swinging strikeout) to end the inning.
The Pirates led 4-1 after five innings.
The game remained 4-1 through the sixth and the snow in the seventh inning.
Anthony Rizzo led off the eighth with a single to right off Jered Hughes. A wild pitch with Bryant at the plate allowed Rizzo to move to second base. Kris Bryant walked. And Starlin Castro reached on an infield single to the hole at second.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Miguel Montero put together an excellent eight-pitch at bat. Montero singled to left. Everybody moved up 90 feet, Rizzo scored and cut the Pirates lead to 4-2. Clint Hurdle went to his bullpen and replaced Hughes with lefty Tony Watson.
Joe Maddon countered with David Ross for Chris Coghlan. Ross rolled a 0-2 pitch toward the hole at short. Bryant scored, 4-3 Pirates, as Kang slipped and fell as he threw to third to force Castro. Jonathan Herrera batted for Gonzalez Germen and flied out to right. Montero advanced to third on the play. With runners on the corners and two down, Addison Russell hit a hump-back liner up the middle that Walker caught behind the bag to end the inning.
The Pirates could not add on in the ninth against Zac Rosscup and Pedro Strop … the game went to the ninth with the Cubs down 4-3.
Tony Watson set down Denorfia (grounder to short) and Soler (grounder to second) for the first two outs. Anthony Rizzo singled to left on a 3-2 pitch. Bryant worked a 3-2 count and Maddon sent in Travis Wood to run for Rizzo at first base. But Kris Bryant struck out swinging to end the game.
The Cubs and Pirates wrap up the four-game series on Thursday morning (11:35am CDT). Kyle Hendricks faces Jeff Locke in the finale.