Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cubs Take 6-4 Win As Bucco Pitching Falters

Jeff Locke retired the first two Cubbies routinely before The Kid booted Luis Valbuena's ball. Welington Castillo followed with a walk before Chris Valaika whiffed. Locke's strike throwing hasn't carried over - he tossed three balls to three of the Chicago hitters and didn't thrown a first pitch strike to anyone. On the plus side, he has two K and his change looks nasty. Felix Doubront tossed a clean frame, capped with a strikeout of Cutch, who looked at the last two strikes.

The first two Cubs went down in the second before Matt Szczur drilled a high heater to left for a double, but Locke retired Doubront easily. The Kid reached to open on a throwing error by SS Javy Baez. Russ bunted him to second; whether it was a sac or a try for a hit we couldn't tell you. Either way, didn't help as Doubront coaxed a pair of flies.

The Cubs used a bloop and a blast to get ahead in the third. Arismendy Alcantara led off with an infield knock and Baez drilled a flat spinner over the LF fence. Valbuena cracked a heater off the Clemente Wall for a double and Castillo singled him to third. The Bucs traded a run for two outs as Valaika banged into a 6-4-3 DP and a short fly ended the at-bat with the Cubbies up 3-0. To add insult to injury, Russ got whacked with a broken bat on the last out, but he appeared to shake it off quickly.

Travis opened with a single to center, and was forced at second on Locke's poor bunt attempt, straight to the third baseman who was already on top of him. A couple of garden variety outs followed; Snider's single was the only hard hit Bucco ball in three innings.

In the fourth, Locke again retired the first two hitters before Doubront legged out a bleeder on the right side, but another soft grounder ended it. Cutch saw seven straight heaters, and found one he liked to start the frame with a single. He tried to move up on a ball in the dirt and was tossed out at second on a bad read. An out later, Russ singled, but JT's liner to right was hauled in short of the track. At least the Bucs had some good at-bats this frame.

Locke has his best stuff going in the fifth; he's been tough since the middle of the third. Gaby opened with a knock to left, and two bouncers to first moved him to third. Doubront escaped when Josh's liner to center was gloved by Alcantara.

Jeff sprayed the ball in the sixth. After a K and a walk, he had tossed 15 pitches to two batters and was over 100 for the night, then he walked the next hitter. Clint's gamble to get another inning out of him was a losing bet that led to a wasted at-bat last inning. In trotted Brandon Cumpton, who got a pop out and K'ed Doubront. It's inevitable that the DH will come to the NL based on the Senior Circuit nine hole hitters. Mercer walked to become the fifth straight leadoff man to reach and the fifth to die on the bases after three no-sweat outs.

Alcantara opened the seventh with a knock and stole second; the Pirates got it reviewed, but the call was upheld (he was out by a hair) and that led to trouble. A wild pitch moved him to third. Cumpton caught Baez looking, and lefty Valbuena was walked intentionally. All the finagling was for naught; Castillo lifted a deep fly to plate the run. Valaika singled, and Jeanmar Gomez came on. Mike Olt rolled a double into the corner and another run scurried home before a K ended the frame.

Righty Dan Straily took over. Andrew Lambo stepped up for JT and bounced out to first. An out later, Travis walked. El Coffee flew out, and time is running short. Justin Wilson climbed the hill, and Lambo took over in right instead of Gregory Polanco; the Bucs need a bat more than a glove now.

Szczur opened the eighth with a homer, his first in the big leagues. Wilson settled in and retired the next three Cubbies. Josh started the frame with a single, and Jordy chased him to third with a ground rule double to right. Cutch popped out on the first pitch, a fastball down the middle. It's been that kind of night. The Kid walked to juice the sacks.

Russ bombed one that went just foul, so instead of a grand slam, he had to later settle for a bases-clearing double bounced past third that kicked off the railing back toward the field; the SS ended up corralling the ball. Pedro Strop answered the phone and got Lambo to pop out. Ike hit for Gaby, watched two strikes and then fished for a slider in the dirt.

John Axford came in for the ninth. He walked Valbuena to start, but had no trouble collecting three outs. Hector Rondon came out for the save. It started off badly for him; Travis took a fastball over the wall in right center to make it 6-4. Brent Morel hit for Axford and went down chasing a slider. Josh popped out, Jordy bounced out and the Bucs finally lost one to the Cubbies.

Well, the Cubs were due to win one sooner or later and Pirate pitching gave them the opportunity. Locke and the bullpen, for the most part, weren't very good tonight. For Jeff, it's just another dip in his roller coaster season. As for the bullpen, the middle guys don't get much work. Gomez has appeared once a week lately, and Cumpton about the same. The inning eaters have to acclimate to that schedule, and the Bucco arms apparently aren't adjusting very well.

But Milwaukee lost tonight, as did Atlanta, so the Pirates kept their 1-1/2 game lead on the Brew Crew and are three up on the Braves for the last wildcard. The Dodgers are kicking Giant butt tonight, so Pittsburgh will remain 4-1/2 (five in the loss column) behind San Francisco. The Cards won, so they're three up in the loss column in the NL Central race. 14 games to go; having fun yet?

Jacob Turner and Edinson Volquez close out the series tomorrow afternoon.
  • Tonight's Cub starting lineup didn't have a hitter batting over .247.
  • The attendance of 38,024 was the 19th sellout of the season at PNC Park. The Pirates and Lynyrd Skynyrd thank them.
  • Ex-Bucs: Last night Dilson Herrera became the first Mets second baseman to start three DPs in a nine inning game since Jeff Kent in 1993.

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