Before the "GITP" (as the boxscore lists it) by Matt Szczur, the Cubs looked as if they would breeze to a win. Pirates starter Edinson Volquez was shaky; he couldn't throw strikes in the first couple of innings and, thanks to some poor Pirates defense including a throwing error by Volquez, the Cubs had fashioned a 3-0 lead and Jacob Turner was breezing along, allowing just a single run on a homer by Neil Walker in the fourth. No shame there; it was Walker's 20th of the season and he's a good hitter.
In the half-inning before that homer, the Cubs had runners on first and second when Szczur hit a sharp ground ball right to Josh Harrison, who was standing almost on third base. It was easy for him to step on third and throw to second, and the relay to first comfortably beat Szczur, who has good speed, for the triple play. This is the rarest kind of triple play, the around-the-horn type; the Pirates hadn't turned one since July 23, 1979, in a game they lost 8-0. They had better luck with today's result.
The Cubs hadn't hit into a triple play of any kind since the first inning of this game May 14, 2000, a wild game they lost 16-15 to the Montreal Expos, and if you think it's been a long time since the Cubs last were involved in a triple play at home, you're right. The last triple play turned at Wrigley Field was by the Giants, in the fourth inning of this game May 8, 1998, and the Cubs have not turned a triple play at Wrigley since the second inning of this game June 2, 1983, and that one was identical to today's -- a 5-4-3 around-the-horn ground ball. That one was a bit more understandable, as a slow-running pitcher, Rick Rhoden, was the guy who hit into it. You'd have thought the relatively fast Szczur could have beaten the relay... but he didn't.
And an inning later, it all fell apart for Turner and the Cubs, as Turner got pounded hard (five doubles!), eventually being charged with seven earned runs in 4⅔ innings. I still think Turner has talent and can be turned around -- he's still just 23 year old -- but it might take an offseason and spring-training work with Chris Bosio to make him right.
Some good news came out of this mess. Eric Jokisch was again put into a game the Cubs were getting blown out of (as he was last Sunday when the same thing happened to Travis Wood), and he threw 2⅔ scoreless innings, though he did allow five hits, all singles. Arodys Vizcaino was then summoned to throw the bottom of the eighth, which he completed without incident.
The loss mathematically eliminated the Cubs from the National League wild-card race, not that they weren't effectively eliminated from that a long time ago.
One thing I feel I must mention, having listened to a large portion of Sunday's game in the car driving back from Michigan. Judd Sirott and Ron Coomer are almost unlistenable. I'm not sure where Pat Hughes was today, but Sirott is just awful. His nasal tone grates on the ears and his constant use of cutesy baseball terms ("bump" for mound, "stolen bag," etc.) makes him sound at best a dilettante, at worst like a high-school broadcast student proud that he's learned words to use on the air that he thinks no one else has ever heard of.
Coomer is master-of-the-obvious and his sing-songy up-and-down tonal quality is really hard to listen to. I was one of those who thought Coomer would make a good partner for Hughes, but at this point I'm thinking I was wrong about that. I know the Cubs want Pat Hughes to continue as they transition from WGN radio to WBBM in 2015, but I'd love to see the team and the radio station look around for another partner for Pat.
The Cubs finished up the trip at 1-5 and are 30-48 away from Wrigley this year with three road games remaining, the final three games of the season at Miller Park. 30-48 isn't good, but at least it's not the worst road record in the major leagues this year. The Rockies, Padres and White Sox are all worse away from home.
The season's final homestand, 10 games in 10 days against the Reds, Dodgers and Cardinals, begins Monday evening at 7:05 CT, with Travis Wood facing Alfredo Simon. Jorge Soler is expected back in the lineup after being away for the weekend to attend the birth of his first child, but Anthony Rizzo's back injury might prevent him from returning, though it had been suggested he might also be back Monday. It would seem to me that Rizzo might as well be shut down; back injuries are tricky and if the Cubs aren't careful with him, it could wreck a promising career.