|Ivan had one brief burp in taming the Cubs tonight (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)|
J-Bell opened the sixth with a ground-rule double on a ball that was eaten by the ivy; otherwise, he'd have been thinking three. No prob; Gregory lost a ball an out later to give the Bucs the lead. Cervy singled and hustled home on an aggressive wave (Joey Cora apparently was tired of Ivan stranding runners at his station) after Jordy's two-bagger with Lordy taking third on the throw home. Bossa Nova, of course, left him and Brian Duensing came in to go lefty-lefty on Fraze, striking him out on three tosses. The first Cubbie reached when Frazier bobbled a routine ball and threw late to first, as determined by review. No sweat; one pitch later a 6-4-3 DP corrected that error and another bouncer ended it. J-Bell is on a mission; he singled with two gone in the seventh. Hector Rondon got the call to match up with Freeser and got him to ground out. Pittsburgh didn't change pitchers but did swap 2B as Mad Max replaced Fraze. The Cubs drew a walk with an out. Ivan got a grounder, then Clint pulled him to roll Tony Watson out against lefty Jason Heyward. He got him on one pitch.
Pittsburgh didn't squeak a peep in the eighth. Juan Nicasio toed the slab and gave up a one-out double, who moved to third on a roller. Then Clint rang for Felipe Rivero to face lefty Kris Bryant, with the red-hot J-Bell double-switched out for Jose Osuna. Felipe lost him on four pitches, but got Anthony Rizzo to bounce into the shift to keep the lead at 4-2. Koji Uehara put up a zero in the ninth and so did Felipe.
|J-Bell banged Jake around for three hits, including a pair of doubles|
What was really interesting tonight was watching the managers use their pens; they both maximized what they had (even if Maddon's mano-a-mano matchups, much like LaRussa's, are a bit too rote for our taste). It's also interesting that the Cubs have five HR in 17 innings here as the wind has been blowing in the last two days. But hey, the Bucs remain with a pulse, and we hope it keeps throbbing during a national TV shot tomorrow with Jamo on the hill. The July schedule has left the team in a position where if they can start taking series - first the Cubs, and after the break the Cards & Brewers at home, then a west coast trip against the Rox, Giants and Padres - they can make the dog days at least interesting if the rest of the gang continues to stumble along. We'll see; there are still holes a'plenty (Goose Gosselin, plz!) in the dike, but that seems to be the new norm in the Central Division.
- The Pirates had seven hits; J-Bell had three of them while Gregory had a big knock and walk.
- Felipe Rivero's 0.76 ERA is the lowest among full-time MLB relievers. He and Wade LeBlanc are both Top-10 in bullpen innings - Wade has 47-2/3 IP, Felipe 47-1/3.
- Raise your hand if you thought in March that Ivan Nova would be 9-6/3.21 at the All Star break.
- The Pirates have shown the downside of betting heavy on OBP - they're 2-for-20 w/RISP in the first two games of the set.