The second was a clean frame, thx to a leaping grab in right by Adam Frazier. S-Rod cut the gap in half when he went yard on the second pitch, dropping the ball 449' into the Batter's Eye in center. Fraze singled off a ball deflected by the pitcher; he went to second when Javier Baez's hurried throw of the ricochet went astray. He came in an out later on Eric Fryer's double up the LF line. With two gone, JJ's lob into right gave the Pirates the lead.
|Jeff gave up some hits out of the pen but kept the scoreboard clean (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)|
Looks like another one of those afternoons. A walk, double and grounder tied the game for the Cubbies in the third; a 419' Cutch homer untied it. The Cubs took the lead in the fourth on a walk and Albert Almora Jr homer; it seems walking the first guy each inning and serving up a meatball to the next has not been a winning tactic for Niese today. With runner on the corners with two gone after Anthony Rizzo slipped a roller past S-Rod, Clint had seen enough and Arquimedes Caminero trudged in. Arquie gave up a no-man's dink to left, but Starling was up to the task, saving a run or two with his wheels while bumping into an oncoming Jordy. Lackey worked through the bottom of the order quietly.
Jeff Locke took his bow as a reliever in the fifth. Jordy made a great, full extension catch of a liner for the second out, but that was followed by an infield single - and Jordy almost made that play - followed by a ball that kissed the RF line. It came off the wall nicely for Fraze, Javier Baez ran through a stop sign, and combined that was enough to nail him at home without a fight, 9-4-2. Starling was HBP with an out, swiped second and went to third when the peg rolled into center. A two out walk put ducks on the corners, but S-Rod couldn't clear the pond.
With two gone in the sixth, Jeff ran into trouble again when a single and a Rizzo double - he cued-balled a pitch off the end off the bat; against the shift and it rolled into short left - heated things up, but he got a grounder to cool the Cubs. The Bucs went down 1-2-3 against Lackey. Locke opened the seventh, and was replaced by Neftali Feliz after a single and out. It was quickly two outs when Eric Fryer thwarted an attempted steal, and a whiff ended the frame without any damage.
|John Jaso collected a pair of hits today (photo Getty Images)|
Lackey started the frame, but after a nine pitch walk to Josh Bell and a two strike single to center by JJ, his day ended at 113 pitches as Pedro Strop came in. Marte's grounder had Bell hung up, but the Cubs opted to try for a traditional DP. They didn't get it as Marte beat the relay to first, and Bell slid into third, barely eluding the tag after a good throw across the diamond by Rizzo. Cutch lifted one to medium right and rifle-armed Jason Heyward arrowed the ball home, but a bit high and TinkerBell got under the swipe to tie the game. Marte was heads up moving to second on the throw, and it almost paid off. Freeser hit a rope to right, but it stayed up to become an at 'em ball third out.
Tony Watson gave the lead back in the eighth. A one out double by Matt Szczur followed by a two out knock by Kris Byrant made it 6-5, with Szczur a step ahead of a strong throw by Marte. Carl Edwards Jr took the bump. S-Rod reached on a strikeout/wild pitch combo and swapped places with Fraze on a force out. Frazier was off on the pitch to Jordy; his liner to right was gloved by Heyward and turned into an easy DP. The Pirates haven't had much luck with liners dropping in the last couple of frames.
|Josh Bell has three runs and four RBI in three MLB PAs (photo Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)|
The Shark put up a scoreless ninth, and Hector Rondon did the same to ice it for Chi-town.
3-of-4 against the Cards and 2-of-3 against the Cubs ain't bad. But this was a sloppy game by the Bucs, not pitched very well and not defended very well, leaving a handful of unmade plays on the field as they did yesterday. Still, they made a game of it, even outhit 15-7.
The ASB is right on time for the Pirates with a small army of guys either licking their wounds or getting ready to rejoin the club from the DL. The FO has some decisions to make, especially with the rotation. Clint has been managing a bullpen that has been called on way too early, as the starters continue to get bashed, and even the eminent returns of Cole Train and Jameson Taillon leaves the Jon Niese problem. If they were thinking of getting more than a bag of balls for him, today's performance should perish that thought. But how much longer can they afford to keep wishin', hopin', and giving him the ball?
- JJ was the only Bucco with two hits today. Cutch homered with two RBI and a run scored.
- S-Rod has homered in four of his last five games.
- Going into today, Tony Watson had rung up 14 straight scoreless outings.
- Today's crowd was 37,998 fans.
- Anthony Rizzo had eight straight hits against the Bucs before grounding out in the eighth.
- On his Sunday radio show, Neil Huntington said that Cole Train won't be activated immediately following the ASB (another day or two with an extra bat), with Josh Bell hanging on the roster because of that, with a longer duration stay pending Gregory Polanco's recovery timeline, Tyler Glasnow is in the rotation discussion, and Ryan Vogelsong will be stretched out as a starter during rehab to fill whatever pitching role is needed.
- In Jeff Todd's "25 Players Likely To Be Moved" weekly post in MLB Trade Rumors, Jon Niese's name pops up while Mark Melancon and David Freese drop off as suspects.
- Cole Train got a rehab start at Indy today and Ryan Vogelsong took the hill for Altoona. Gerritt tossed five shutout innings, giving up two hits and fanning six after 70 pitches. V-Song worked five innings, and allowed three runs on six hits with a K, the big blow being a two run homer. He delivered 60 pitches.