For the first time this year, the Pirates failed to plate a run in the first inning against the Cubbies. Bad omen? You betcha.
Oh, the Bucs cranked it up in the second; guess their alarm clock buzzer went off late. They scored three times on a Bobby Crosby single and a two-out, two-run knock by Lastings Milledge.
But as so often happens with this club, the bats were put away for the remainder of the game. The Bucs strung together three hits and two walks that inning, and that line would match their total for the rest of the afternoon.
They had a golden opportunity in the seventh when Steve Pearce and Bobby Crosby opened the inning with singles. After a Cedeno flyout to right, the Cubs ran a wheel play on Ohlie, and he crossed them up by pulling back the bat and taking a cut.
He drilled the ball into right center, over the head of Kosuke Fukudome, but the wind blowing from right pushed the ball in far enough that Fukudome could make a web gem running grab, saving a pair of runs. The Pirates ultimately loaded the bases with two outs, but Andy LaRoche popped out to first. That was Pittsburgh's last, best shot at scoring its golden fourth run.
Ross Ohlendorf looked close to being back. He went six innings, and was charged with two runs on four hits, walking and whiffing three while hitting 94 regularly on the Wrigley radar. He also hung tough, pitching out of a bases loaded jam in the second inning, and a second and third situation in the sixth, both with one away.
Even though his pitch count was only at 73, he got a quick hook when he walked the first batter in the seventh. JR tapped his right arm, and in came Evan Meek, money in the bank so far this year. But while Meek was willing, the infield wasn't.
After two fine grabs of quails being knocked down by the Lake Michigan breezes by Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Church, the Cubs switched up and began aiming at Pirate infielders.
A roller got through the second base hole when it took a late bounce over Crosby's mitt, and a wild pitch later, it was a one run game. Ronny Cedeno clanged a routine grounder to keep the inning alive, and Derrek Lee fisted a three hopper through the shortstop hole to tie it.
In the eighth, it was on DJ Carrasco, and he couldn't come up with the goose egg. He had two outs with Alfonso Soriano on first, but threw a wild pitch with a steal going on, and Soriano got to third. He walked Geovany Soto, and Xavier Nady lined a two strike slider into right to bring home the eventual winning run of their 4-3 victory.
The good news is that the rotation looks like it's beginning to fall in place, and that Pittsburgh, although 16-21, is only five games back of the Central Division leading Reds.
The bad news is that they gave a game away, just like they did with St. Louis earlier in the week, and a team with the Pirates' offense can't get away with playing less than solid, fundamental baseball.
Charlie Morton takes on Kyle Kendrick tomorrow night in Philly.
-- It was bound to happen. The Bucs were 14-0 when leading or tied after six innings this year before this afternoon's come from ahead loss. They were up 3-1 after six today.
-- Aki Iwamura was yanked during yesterday's match because of tightness in his right hamstring and will probably miss a handful of games. JR said Iwamura could probably pinch hit, so it isn't thought to be too serious. Bobby Crosby is his replacement, at least today, and Lastings Milledge was penciled in to lead off.
-- Steve Pearce is back in the saddle again after taking off a few innings because of a slightly sprained tendon in his knee, and was in today's lineup, where he made a couple of sweet plays in the field.
-- The Pirates do fast track some prospects. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review tweets "GM Neal Huntington said rhp Bryan Morris (3-0, 0.60 ERA, 40 K in 44.2 ip) could go from Class A to Triple-A by August."
Morris was promoted from High A Bradenton to AA Altoona today. The potential fly in the ointment: he only worked 72-2/3 innings last year, and hasn't posted more than 110 innings in any one season in the minors. So the brass will watch his innings carefully; he has 37 frames under his belt to date.