Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cubs Broom Bucs 6-2

Little bit of a shaky start for Juan Nicasio, but he survived a leadoff single and later walk; the Bucs left one aboard against Jon Lester for a scoreless first frame. An opening single in the second (why can't the Bucs get leadoff hitters this series?) was erased trying to steal. That was followed by a walk before he shut it down. Like Niese yesterday, he's getting ahead but can't finish guys - he's already at 50 pitches. Fran hit a hard comebacker; it stuck in Lesters glove, so the vet just tossed the mitt and ball to first for the out. S-Rod singled, wandered way off the bag, and was picked off easily by C David Ross, so Josh's single was to no avail.

Too many pitches for Juan today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Juan walked the first hitter in the third, but came back with a couple of broken bat outs. A liner to center hit a sliding Cutch in the web; it came out for an error (Cutch disagreed with that call, but tough catch or not, that should have been the inning ender), and Ben Zobrist took the next pitch deep over the wall in RC. That was followed by a pair of knocks, a bad-hop single off Josh's glove and a slow roller that died on the infield grass, before the third out. Pittsburgh went down in order.

The Cub damage in the fourth was limited to a two out single (Lester led off). The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs after two knocks and a walk, but came away empty. The key at bat was S-Rod, who swung at ball four on a 3-1 pitch and swung at ball four on a 3-2 pitch, whiffing. Josh popped out to short right, Gregory K'ed on three pitches down the middle as the Bucs are squeezing their bats a little too hard.

A couple of fifth inning doubles sandwiched around an out brought Jared Hughes. He got out of it thanks to two wrongs = right; Hughes didn't get to first in time on a grounder to first, but the Cub runner on second kept chugging home; the Bucs nailed him in a rundown, so the ensuing walk didn't hurt. First and third for the Pirates with one out raised some smoke, but Lester fanned Freeser on a rising heater and Marte on a little slider. Ryan Vogelsong got the call for the sixth and worked a clean frame. With two gone, a Josh knock and a walk brought on Adam Warren. JJ hit him hard, but a one hop at 'em ball ended the threat.

Matt still swinging a hot bat (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Rizzo homered to open the seventh, making it 5-0. Pittsburgh finally got a number on the scoreboard when Cutch doubled and an out later, Matt Joyce banged one long to right center. Tony Watson walked the first guy he faced, but otherwise had a quiet eighth. Pedro Strop and S-Rod had a little jawing match going on; Strop won the argument by fanning Rodriguez. Gregory singled with two gone and was left. A couple of yes, leadoff hits, and a grounder off the Shark made it 6-2. Hector Rondon had an easy inning and the Cubs had their sweep. The Bucs have a day off to lick their wounds before taking on the Cards.

Chicago was fundamentally sound. They worked the counts, didn't fish, put the ball in play, fielded well (Javier Baez is a leather god), and their starters were efficient. The Pirates performance was disappointing in that neither Jason Hammel nor Jon Lester were overwhelming; they let the Buc batters beat themselves. Pirate starting pitching needs to answer the bell; all these five innings or fewer starts are getting old. Juan wasn't that bad; he was ahead virtually all day but couldn't put the Bruin batters away, and even with that, it took a dropped ball to ruin his day.

A May series doesn't make or break the year. This series was certainly not the first impression the Pirate wanted to leave with the Cubbies, but we think the hitters will relax and compete if the pitching allows them the chance. We'll find out soon. They start a nine game road trip within the division, and will be in Wrigley to start the next matchup on Friday the 13th, a good day to reverse the field.

  • Matt Joyce's pinch hit homer was his league-leading third of the season. H's the first Pirate to do that in a season since Travis Snider, who banged three long flies in 2013. He also become the first Buc with a hit w/RISP this series.
  • The Pirates have lost four in a row. Their record is 15-13.
  • Today's gray sky attendance was 28,782.
  • Anthony Rizzo had five doubles and a homer during the set.
  • Jung Ho Kang's rehab period of 20 days is up Saturday. They can either call him up or place him back on the 15-day DL and send him to Pirate City. Indications are that he's coming along, but not ready for prime time yet; David Freese's solid play allows the Pirates not to rush him back.

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