Ike Davis opened with a bloop single that wouldn't stay in CF'er Ryan Sweeney's mitt and was bunted to second (peculiar call, we thought, but hey.) Josh whiffed, then Pedro then singled to right, and Davis was cut down at home 9-3-2. Looked like a classic blocked plate call with John Baker covering the dish before the ball got there, but NY didn't see it that way, and Ike remained out. That "alley for the runner" rule needs a lot of work. The Cubs went down in order.
Morton singled with an out in the third, but nothing came of it. The hill was a little tougher chore. Jackson and Luis Valbueno singled, followed by a walk to Coghlan, who had fallen behind 0-2. Rizzo banged a hook into right for a two-run two-bagger, and Castro homered on an 0-2 curve. After three, it was 5-0 Cubbies. Jackson struck out the side in the fourth - the Bucs looked like they all wanted to hit five-run homers - while Morton allowed a lead off walk after being up 1-2 in the count, but escaped undamaged.
In the fifth, Josh and Pedro both drew free passes on just eight pitches. Jordy Mercer got a 2-2 slider down Broadway and slid it over the left field wall to give Pittsburgh a pulse again. The next trio went down quietly, with Jackson adding a pair of K to run his total to eight. Coghlan led off by losing a slider over the wall in right, and it was 6-3. With two outs and two strikes, Sweeney smacked a back door curve into center, but Morton got Nate Schierholtz swinging to end the frame with his fifth whiff.
Rick Renteria had seen enough of Jackson and brought on Brian Schlitter in the sixth. With an out, Ike beat out a tapper to third. Russ fought for eight pitches and was rewarded with another bleeder knock, this one to the right side. Josh lined one to right, but Schierholtz was there for the grab. Pedro stepped in, and lefty Wesley Wright got the call. Wright left a 1-2 slider down the middle, and Pedro almost got it all, flying out to the wall in straight away center. Baker singled off a 3-2 fastball with one away for the Cubs, but Charlie got a pair of routine outs to set Chicago down.
Neil Ramirez climbed the mound in the seventh. Jordy opened by getting plunked on a 2-2 delivery. Travis Snider grabbed a bat and flew out to short left on a nice running grab by Coghlan. Polanco worked the count to 2-2 and watched a pair of fastballs go by just wide without a chase, his eye leading to a walk. Marte flew out to the track in right, and Cutch went down on four pitches. Justin Wilson took the ball and walked Rizzo with an out, but got through the frame without a problem. His velocity is down a couple or three ticks to 91-92 today, so that will bear watching as the games pile up; he's made 32 appearances.
Pedro Strop worked the eighth. He got Ike to chase a slider, but Russ laid off the low stuff and drew a 3-2 walk. Josh looked at a third strike, and Pedro bounced out as the shadows grow longer. Jason Grilli appeared for the first time as a non-closer against the bottom of the order with the wind blowing in. Good start; he got the first two guys looking, then walked Baker after being up 0-2 in the count. Junior Lake slapped a single to right before Valbueno flew out. His velocity was good (93-94), location not so much. But he needed a goose egg and got one.
Hector Rondon came on to finish the game, and started off strong by K'ing Mercer on three pitches. JT got a call, and flew out to center. El Coffee went down on a foul tip, and the Bucs dropped the opener 6-3.
Starling and Pedro picked the wrong day at Wrigley; the balls they hit were three-run shots if the wind wasn't blowing in. It didn't help that the team's generators at the top of the order went 1-for-12 with five whiffs, though they were overdue for a down day. The team went down 13 times, and that's a lot of unproductive at-bats for any squad.
But you have to pitch, and Charlie had his one typical terrible inning. The Cubs had three guys hitting over .220 in the lineup, and Morton hung curves to two of them - Rizzo and Castro - to cost himself and the team the victory. Setting them up by giving up a knock to the pitcher and then walking a .220 hitter when you're up 0-2 was just as bad. Pittsburgh has to strap it up now; they're not in a position to lose series to sub-.500 teams if they want to remain relevant through the dog days.
Vance Worley goes against Travis Wood tomorrow night.
- Gregory Polanco extended his hitting streak to ten games. He hasn't had an 0-fer since being called up.
- Clint Hurdle told the media gang that Jason Grilli is out as closer, with Mark the Shark getting most of the work and Tony Watson to finish occasionally, too. Makes sense both in the short and long term.