Tuesday, August 30, 2016

!3 Inning Roller Coaster Ride Ends In 8-7 Bucco Loss

The canvas was dropped during some afternoon sprinkles, but it was a go for the contest as the tarp was rolled back up about an hour before game time, with possible scattered rain called for tonight. Tomorrow night is being forecast as the wet one, so that might become a long evening of ball.

Jake Arrieta had a 1-2-3 frame; he walked, natch, Josh Bell but he was banged out trying to steal (Josh is, umm, slow). Steven Brault gave up a lead off knock, then threw away a DP comebacker to put Cubbies on the corners. It cost him after a grounder chased home a run. Gregory just missed losing a baseball to open the second; the next two outs were routine. The Cubs added a couple of hits to the tote board, one hard and the other seeing-eye, without causing any damage.

Josh started things off with an opp field dinger (photo/MLB Pipeline)

Three grounders, three outs for the Bucs in the third. The first two Bruins walked, and an out later Jorge Soler lifted a heater to left for a run-scoring double that Marte appeared to give up on, fooling him off the bat. Still... A swinging bunt brought home another Cub to make it 3-0. Bell hasn't been around long enough to have the Jake shakes; he drilled an elevated fastball the opposite way, inside the pole and over the ivy in the fourth. The fourth straight lead off guy reached against Brault and two outs later, Steven brushed Kris Bryant, but he slipped out of it by getting Anthony Rizzo on his 92nd pitch.

Starling opened the fifth with a bloop to right. An out later, he stole second and went to third on an overthrow. Fran couldn't bounce the ball past Arrieta, Starling got caught off third and was picked off in a rundown. The Pirates challenged on a blocking the plate beef and lost, putting up a zero. Jared Hughes gave up a single and that was it. J-Hay singled with one gone in the sixth and swiped second ahead of another Bell walk. Cutch and El Coffee went after the first pitch; Andrew popped out and Gregory popped one into the LF bleachers. In spite of all the mistakes, the Bucs were up 4-3. AJ Schugel came in and hung a clean sheet, with a pair of K and a sweet snag by Harrison.

Gregory's blast turned the score around (photo Ron Chenay/USA Today)

Freeser opened the seventh with an infield rap and Fran worked a walk. With an out, Travis Wood took the ball to face Matt Joyce and won the southpaw showdown with a whiff. It didn't work so well against J-Hay, though, as he doubled home a pair off an 0-2 slider to make it 6-3. S-Rod went to first while Felipe Rivero got Kris Bryant and Rizzo before walking Ben Zobrist, but no blood, no foul.

Cutch greeted Spencer Patton with a single but was erased stealing on a very nice, quick tag by Javier Baez on a slightly off throw. Starling singled with two outs and committed some larceny. Freeser walked but Fran couldn't get the ducks off the pond. Neftali Feliz gave up a lead off two-bagger and a Wilson Contreras homer off a hung slider to make it a horse race again. Another double on a meatball turned up the heat even higher. Every ball hit has been a rocket - and no one is up in the pen. Feliz sucked it up and whiffed the next pair. A wild pitch put the tying run at third. Bryant walked on four pitches in an apparent work around - but to get to Rizzo? Guess that was the plan; he whiffed as Clint's confidence in Neftali paid off, against all odds.

Josh had three hits and three RBI (photo Getty Images)

Felix Pena took the hill for the ninth. J-Hay dropped one for a two-out knock to no avail. Tony Watson came in without a net. He coulda used one when Jorge Solter took him deep to center on an 1-2 fastball to take the game into extra frames. Aroldis Chapman took the ball in the 10th. Gregory walked with one gone and died at first. Jeff Locke gave up an opening dink into center, and an out later another grounder that was a step away from a DP put Cubs on the corner. Bryant was intentionally walked. Rizzo hit one to first; S-Rod stepped on the bag and threw home for the tag, which Fran laid on Baez despite an off-line tpeg from first. The Cubs challenged both outs and lost twice, so it's on to the 11th.

Trevor Cahill toed the rubber, and Jordy singled with one away. J-Hay reached on a boot chasing Jordy to third, with Locke up and no bench players remaining; they're one short after sending down Fraze for AJ. Locke did his job; Harrison didn't as he was hit by the batted ball for the third out (which the grounder probably would have been anyway). It didn't bother Jeff much as he tossed a clean frame. Justin Grimm took over and the middle of the Bucs order swung at everything, making for an easy inning for The Reaper. With an out, Baez tripled to the RC field gap, helped by a bad hop. Locke has became the master of the outre DP; Addison Russell flew out to left and Starling gunned down Baez tagging for home. The throw beat him cleanly and still went to a pointless review (Joe Maddon was being, well, Joe Maddon). This game has had more drama than a soap opera.

Freeser may be heating up; he had two hits and a walk (photo via ESPN)

Lefty Rob Zastryzny stirred for the 13th. Freeser and Fran opened with knocks, then Jordy walked to juice the sacks. S-Rod went up 3-0, took a strike and swung through two more, looking for a blast when a bloop would do. J-Hay came through with a well struck sac fly. Not putting up a crooked number in this situation has been a season-long bug-a-boo. Now it's up to Jeff Locke, in his fourth inning against the top of the Cub order. Dexter Fowler led off with a ground ball single, and Bryant took a tight pitch the other way to put Cubs on the corners. Rizzo singled to tie it, and an intentional walk loaded the sacks with no outs. A pinch hit single ended it.

Well, plenty of action. Locke shouldn't be faulted too much - he threw 76 pitches and went four innings for the first time in a month. Getting a four-inning start with a short bullpen (and they still used six relievers), gifting the Cubs three early runs and then having the back end of the bullpen implode was what lost this game. The team played hard, fought their way out of some tough spots and hopefully can rebound from a brutal loss.

  • The Bucco streak of 139 consecutive wins when leading after eight innings was snapped tonight. The last late blown lead was on April 21st, 2015 v the Cubs.
  • Gregory Polanco's homer was the 11,000th smacked in Pirates history, per the Bucs PR staff. As @JohnDreker points out, the club actually has 11,058 homers because the franchise started in 1882 as the American Association (considered a major league) Alleghenys. 1887 is the date the team uses because that's when they joined the NL.
  • Gerrit Cole was placed on the 15-day DL (retro to August 25th) with posterior inflammation of right elbow, so no one is left standing from the original Cole, Liriano, Niese, Nicasio & Locke rotation that began the season. It also makes us wonder if this is related to his prior triceps injury, as that tendon attaches to the elbow. Anyway, if all goes well, Gerrit is eligible to return September 9th.
  • Jung Ho Kang isn't with the Pirates at Wrigley as he was at Milwaukee. He went to Indy to continue his rehab (to clarify: not a rehab assignment yet, just where he's working out). The sniff test suggests that this may be a way to eliminate a potentially big distraction in Chicago as he's still under investigation, although the Pirates say it's just part of the long-range plan they have mapped out for his recovery.
  •  Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors opines that Ivan Nova, who will be a FA after the season, could get a JA Happ-type contract offer if he continues to deal through September. Happ got a 3-year, $36M deal from Toronto after a strong 2015 finish in Pittsburgh.
  • Nick Kingham worked six innings, allowing one run on three hits, one walk and four punchouts in his first rehab start for Altoona tonight as he works his way back from TJ surgery. The Pirates plan to keep him with the Curve through the AA playoffs.

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