Game Fifteen – Cubs 4, Pirates 5
WP – Radhames Liz (1-1) LP – Brian Schlitter (0-2) Save – Mark Melancon (3)
The Cubs settled for a split in Pittsburgh after the 4-1 lead the team built in the first five innings disappeared in the sixth inning. The Pirates scored three runs off Kyle Hendricks and Edwin Jackson in the sixth and one more in the seventh off Brian Schlitter and Phil Coke as the Cubs lost the finale on Thursday afternoon.
The Cubs gave one back to the Pirates and instead of a happy flight to Cincinnati, Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and front office will have to discuss ways to fix the bullpen.
Kyle Hendricks made one mistake over the first five innings, a solo home run by Sean Rodriguez in the second inning. Hendricks retired seven in a row before Josh Harrison led off the sixth with a double to left. Harrison moved to third when Andrew Lambo grounded out to second base. Gregory Polanco doubled to right, Harrison scored and Maddon went to his pen for Edwin Jackson.
Edwin Jackson could not find a rhythm or get on the same page with Welington Castillo. Not only did the game slow to a snail’s pace, but he did not do his job. Neil Walker singled up the middle off Addison Russell’s glove, Polanco scored and cut the Cubs’ lead to one run. After a walk to Pedro Alvarez and a throwing error by Welington Castillo put runners on second and third with one down, Jordy Mercer singled to left and tied the game at four.
Brian Schlitter cleaned up Jackson’s mess and the game went to the seventh inning with a 4-4 score.
Josh Harrison doubled with one down off Schlitter and Phil Coke could not retire Gregory Polanco despite jumping ahead in the count 0-2. Polanco singled to left on a 3-2 pitch and Harrison scored what would be the winning run.
The sixth and seventh innings illustrated why the Cubs were depending on Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez this season.
Kyle Hendricks pitched better than his final line indicates. Hendricks ran out of gas and started elevating the ball in the sixth inning. Hendricks was charged with three runs on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Hendricks threw 90 pitches, 59 for strikes, in 5 1/3 innings.
The Cubs offense did a good job early on putting runs on the board against Jeff Locke. But they were not able to put the game out of reach in the fifth inning.
Jonathan Herrera (1-for-3 with a triple and two RBI) tripled in the Cubs first two runs in the second inning. Addison Russell (1-for-4 with a double and a RBI) doubled in Starlin Castro (2-for-4 with a run scored) and Kris Bryant (0-for-3 with a walk and a RBI) walked with the bases loaded in the fifth to force in the Cubs’ fourth run. But Castro grounded into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded in the fifth to end the inning … and the Cubs managed only one baserunner over the last four innings.
For the first time this season, the Cubs lost on back-to-back days. The Cubs have work to do, mainly in the bullpen and will need for Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta to cover up the issues the first two days in Cincinnati.
Starlin Castro led off the second inning of a scoreless game with a single to center (1-2 pitch). Welington Castillo pulled Jeff Locke’s first pitch to deep left center. Castro motored to third on a long single by Castillo. With runners on the corners and no outs, Addison Russell chopped a 2-2 pitch toward first. Pedro Alvarez fielded the ball and threw home. Castro broke on contact and was an easy out. Kyle Hendricks was caught looking at a 0-2 pitch for the second out.
Jonathan Herrera supplied some unexpected power. Herrera launched Locke’s first pitch to deep left center. Sean Rodriguez raced into the gap and dove, but the ball hit off the end of his glove. Castillo and Russell scored easily on a triple from Herrera, 2-0 Cubs. Pat Hughes’ call on the Herrera triple, “Long drive by the little man.”
Chris Denorfia struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Pirates got one of the runs right back in the bottom of the second. Hendricks retired Pedro Alvarez (flyout to left) and Jordy Mercer (flyout to right) for the first two outs. Sean Rodriguez put a charge in to a 2-1 pitch. The ball sailed over the wall in center and cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Chris Stewart grounded out to short to end the inning. Hendricks needed 34 pitches, 21 for strikes, to complete two innings.
The Cubs had a 2-1 lead after two complete.
Starlin Castro led off the fourth with an infield single up the middle. Welington Castillo chopped a 1-1 pitch down the third baseline. Josh Harrison knocked the ball down, picked it up in foul ground and threw out Castillo at first as Castro advanced to second.
Addison Russell drove a 1-2 pitch to deep right center. The ball landed and skipped to the wall. Castro scored and Russell ended up at second with his first double and RBI, 3-1 Cubs. Hendricks struck out looking and Russell was thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning.
Kyle Hendricks set down the side in order in the fourth. Hendricks threw 65 pitches, 41 for strikes, in four innings.
After four innings, the Cubs led 3-1.
Chris Denorfia singled to center with one out in the fifth. Anthony Rizzo pulled a 2-1 pitch to right. The ball hit off the wall. Denorfia stopped at third on a double by Rizzo. Jorge Soler walked to load the bases with one out.
Kris Bryant worked a full count and ball four. Bryant wouldn’t chase. Denorfia scored and the Cubs took a 4-1 lead. With the bases loaded and one down, Starlin Castro stepped in and rolled a 1-1 pitch toward short. Jordy Mercer started a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Kyle Hendricks pitched a 1-2-3 fifth. It took Hendricks 81 pitches, 53 for strikes, to complete five innings. And the Cubs had a 4-1 lead after five complete.
The Cubs did nothing against Radhames Liz in the sixth and Kyle Hendricks took the mound for the sixth inning. Hendricks retired seven in a row entering the sixth.
Josh Harrison doubled to left center to start the sixth. Andrew Lambo grounded out to second, Harrison moved to third and trotted in when Gregory Polanco pulled a 2-2 ball out to right. With the Cubs leading 4-2, a man on second with one out, Joe Maddon went to the mound. Edwin Jackson replaced Kyle Hendricks and the lead slowly went away.
Neil Walker rolled a 3-2 pitch back up the middle. Addison Russell got to the ball behind the bag and tried to keep it in the infield. Russell kicked the ball away, Polanco scored and the Cubs lead was down to 4-3. Jackson could not find his command. And he walked Pedro Alvarez to put runners on first and second with one down.
The old Cubs crept into the new season when Welington Castillo tried to make a play. After a 1-1 pitch to Mercer missed, Castillo threw to first behind Alvarez. The ball sailed into right field. Walker did not get a good jump off second and held at third. Maddon brought his infield in with runners on second and third and only one out.
Jordy Mercer pulled a 3-2 pitch in to left. Walker scored and tied the game at four.
Maddon decided that was enough for Jackson and went to his pen for Brian Schlitter with runners on the corners and one down. Schlitter retired Rodriguez on a little pop fly to Rizzo and Chris Stewart struck out swinging to finally end the inning.
After six innings, the game was tied at four.
The Cubs did not string anything together in the seventh. And Schlitter started the seventh with the game tied at four.
Schlitter struck out pinch hitter Andrew McCutchen for the first out. Josh Harrison doubled to left center on a 2-2 pitch. Maddon went to his pen for Phil Coke with Andrew Lambo due up. Clint Hurdle countered with Corey Hart. Maddon had Coke intentionally walk Hart and put runners on first and second with one out.
Gregory Polanco worked a full count before poking a single into left. Harrison scored, 5-4 Pirates. Coke struck out Walker looking and retired Alvarez on a grounder to first for the third out.
While the Cubs pen couldn’t keep the Pirates from scoring, the Pirates relievers dominated the Cubs. Clint Hurdle’s bullpen faced the minimum over the last four innings of the game. Only one baserunner after Locke left the game and Chris Denorfia was erased when he tried to steal second base with one out in a tied game and Anthony Rizzo at the plate.
The Cubs went down in order in the ninth … and truly settled for a split of the four-game series with the Pirates.
The Cubs open a three-game series Friday night in Cincinnati … Jon Lester versus Mike Leake in game one.