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Pirates 7, Cubs 6: A Good Effort

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The Cubs came from behind twice Tuesday night, but fell to defeat anyway.

Brian Kersey

After the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning off Edwin Jackson, I was sitting with my head down thinking morose thoughts... figuring, "This game is over."

Turned out I was wrong. Thanks in large part to a pair of home runs by Starlin Castro, the Cubs came from behind to twice tie the game (at 4-4 and 6-6) before eighth-inning walks by Pedro Strop and James Russell helped do them in and drop them to a 7-6 defeat, their fourth one-run defeat of the young season.

Before we go on, can you guess the identity of the last Cubs shortstop before Tuesday night to hit two home runs in a game? I've put the name in the blank space below in white, so you'll have to highlight it to see the answer. Before you do that or click on this link to see the list of all Cub shortstops to have multi-homer games, see if you can guess.

Ryan Theriot, on May 13, 2009.

Bet you didn't guess that one.

Jackson was typical Jackson Tuesday night; when he wasn't walking hitters (four of them) or hitting batters (Russell Martin), he was getting hit hard. Nine hits allowed in 4⅔ innings, and many of the outs were hard-hit, too. He recorded just two infield outs, and one of those was a sacrifice bunt. I would love to see improvement over 2013 by Jackson, but so far, it's not looking that way.

Castro, though, helped bring the Cubs back. In addition to the two home runs, he singled to start a rally in the second inning where the Cubs scored their first run on an RBI single by Emilio Bonifacio. Whatever's gotten into Bonifacio, let's hope even a small fraction of that stays. He had his fifth multi-hit game (and third game of three or more hits) Tuesday night with three singles; he also stole a base and scored a run. You should know that Bonifacio has done this before. In 2009, when he was with the Marlins, he hit .436/.450/.590 (17-for-39) over his first eight games, with a double, a triple, a home run and four stolen bases. Sound familiar? He finished that year with a .611 OPS, which was .573 without those eight games included. Trade him now?

As noted, the Cubs lost the game when Strop and Russell walked the bases loaded in the eighth inning, and the Pirates scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Martin. When you do that with Pittsburgh's bullpen you're not likely to win often; Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli locked down the eighth and ninth inning for the Bucs last year and they did it again Tuesday night, retiring the six hitters they faced.

The other thing of note from Tuesday's game was the ejection of Ricky Renteria in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes, which is about the only thing you can argue these days with the replay-review system in place. This gives Renteria the "distinction" of being both the first manager to issue a replay-review challenge and the first manager tossed in 2014. What was the problem?

"That was between me and Jeff," Renteria said.

Not very enlightening. Renteria gave the remnants of a smallish crowd, most of whom had departed by then, a bit of entertainment, at least.

Here's something from Renteria that might be a bit more enlightening:

"It’s the seventh game of the season today," Renteria said Tuesday. "As the season progresses, and I start to see them playing more and they have pinch-hit at-bats in the ballgame … a lot of those things are giving me a lot of information and feedback leading me to where we might ultimately go."

Maybe you see that differently, but to me, that says that Renteria and management are treating these games like extended spring training.

Anyway, add one to the moral victory column for Tuesday's result. That doesn't help the actual-victory count, though.

Jason Hammel will make his first-ever Wrigley Field start Wednesday night against the Pirates' Wandy Rodriguez. Let's hope Castro can continue his sudden power surge.