I saw the Cubs play 14 innings on an absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, pleasant temperatures, light winds and unlimited sunshine, a day just built for baseball... and they failed to score a single run.
That put a sour note on what was shaping up to be a nice homestand after the sweep of the Brewers in the first series. The Cubs just couldn't do a thing with any of the Pirates' pitchers Saturday afternoon ... and early evening ... posting just eight hits in the 16 innings, only one (a leadoff double by Mike Olt in the seventh inning of the "nightcap") for extra bases. For good (or is it bad?) measure, they struck out 19 times in those 16 innings.
I wish I could report something good to you here apart from the great weather conditions, but there really isn't much. The Cubs' bullpen did a decent job for the first four innings after play resumed in the suspended game -- Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Brian Schlitter did their jobs, giving up just one hit and striking out five -- but the Cubs couldn't do a thing offensively. They did manage to get a runner to third with two out in the seventh, and again in the 10th, but strikeouts ended both innings.
Wesley Wright gave up a one-out double in the 11th and then he got himself in bigger trouble with walks. The bases wound up loaded, and that's never good in an extra inning. Josh Harrison singled in two runs and that, as they say, was that. Harrison was injured chasing a popup in the bottom of the inning, left the game, and did not play in the second game.
In that game, Felix Doubront's pitching line -- five innings, five hits, two runs -- doesn't look so awful, but it really wasn't a good outing. He was constantly in trouble -- every inning but the fifth had at least two baserunners -- and even though he left for a pinch-hitter trailing just 2-0, it felt like an insurmountable lead, which turned out to be the truth. Doubront's velocity wasn't great; I didn't see him touch 90 more than a couple of times. He still has talent, but needs more work to be a candidate for next year's rotation.
The Cubs had just three runners past first base in the regular game, and never any serious scoring threat. There's still some work to be done with all the players coming up from the minor leagues, obviously; of interest to me was this: of the 16 players who appeared in the regular game, just one (Welington Castillo) did not spend a significant portion of this year at Triple-A Iowa ("significant" meaning more than just a rehab assignment). I'll also give credit to Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, who's a pretty good pitcher and who the Cubs just could not handle at all.
Kyuji Fujikawa, also trying to come back and be part of the 2015 bullpen, showed good velocity for the first time this year; he touched 94 several times in recording a pair of strikeouts to end the Pirates' eighth.
The only other thing of note on this very, very long afternoon and early evening was the Cubs debut of Arodys Vizcaino, a little less than three years after his last major-league appearance for the Braves in September 2011. It's been a long road back from Tommy John surgery for Vizcaino, and he might need more work. The first batter he faced as a Cub, Jordy Mercer, homered, the only home run in either game. Vizcaino also allowed a single, but did strike out Gregory Polanco to end his first inning as a Cub.
There have been three players in major-league history with the surname "Vizcaino." After this game, all three have played for the Cubs. That's something, anyway. No other team can make this claim.
One clarification on suspended games, via Ed Hartig:
Yesterday's game was NOT the second suspended game for the Cubs in 2014. It was the first. The game against the Giants was NOT a suspended game; rather it was a game that was resumed from the point of protest ... the second such game in Cubs history.
I really don't have much else to add. I enjoyed the weather. What a pleasure to not have to drag rain gear to the ballpark and constantly check radar on my phone. Sunday's supposed to be another day just like this. The Cubs will try to salvage the final game of the set, which would give them a winning homestand, with Travis Wood facing Gerrit Cole.