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Pirates 10, Cubs 4: Why To Not 'Throw It Back'

Despite the loss, there were some good performances by Cubs Sunday, and a nice story to tell.

Jeffrey Phelps

The Cubs lost to the Pirates 10-4 Sunday afternoon, getting swept after sweeping the Brewers, and before I get through some of the highlights (yes, there were some) for the Cubs, let me tell you a nice story.

Gerrit Cole, the Pirates' starting pitcher, hit a two-run homer off Blake Parker in the seventh inning, completing the Pirates scoring. Screeches of "Throw it back" naturally followed, but the man who caught it didn't do so. Instead, he gave the ball to a kid in the front row. That was a nice gesture and it stopped the "throw it back" yells.

That was Cole's first major-league home run, so naturally, Cubs security came up and negotiated a deal with the kid for the ball. They returned with some nice swag -- a bobblehead, a tote bag, a T-shirt, a Cubs clock and a ball autographed by Parker, as well as an offer to the kid and his parents to have a photo taken on the field. It was all done very nicely and that's a real positive for the Cubs.

But this story doesn't end there. The kid's parents went up a few rows to talk to the guy who caught the home run, and offered him some of the swag -- I think I saw him holding the clock. It was such a pleasant exchange, something you don't often see at ballparks these days, and though the homer hurt the Cubs, the result was something happy for several Cubs fans who will likely always remember this day at Wrigley Field.

The rest of the game? Not so much. I'm not sure what's wrong with Travis Wood. Maybe he's been hurt all year and holding that back, which a pitcher shouldn't do. I can't fathom how a starter can get two quick, easy outs on five pitches in the first inning and then completely fall apart; it was by far the worst start of Wood's entire career. Maybe they should shut him down for the rest of the year; they certainly have other guys they can try out.

One of those guys is Eric Jokisch, who made a really nice big-league debut. The pitch-speed meter at Wrigley wasn't working all game, so I don't know what his velocity was, but he seemed to located well. He didn't walk anyone, and gave up just six hits and one earned run in a successful 4⅓ inning first major-league appearance. Why not give him the rest of Wood's starts this year? Jokisch also laid down two sac bunts, very nicely. The last Cubs reliever to have two sac bunts in one game was Mike Proly, who did it in this game against the Montreal Expos 32 years ago, June 17, 1982.

There were a few other Cub performances of note Sunday, all from young players trying to make an impression for next year.

Mike Olt went 3-for-3 with a walk and drove in a run. Maybe this "new approach" he's taking is working. He'll certainly get enough at-bats to show something over the season's last three weeks.

Matt Szczur entered the game in the seventh inning and hit a two-run single for his first two major-league RBI. He also walked.

And perhaps best of all, Javier Baez made several really slick plays in the field, including a pair in the seventh inning on diving stops, after which he made strong and accurate throws to first base. Now, before you yell, "Trade Starlin Castro!", remember this is just one game. But Baez flashed some serious glove in this game, and also drew a walk (maybe I shouldn't mention the three strikeouts).

This recap is a bit short because I'm hitting the road almost as soon as I finish typing it, to head towards Toronto for the series with the Blue Jays starting Monday night. I'll be overnighting in Michigan, then heading toward Canada Monday morning. Game 1 of that series, the Cubs' final interleague set of the year, will feature Jacob Turner against Marcus Stroman at 6:07 (no, I don't get the ":07" thing either) CT.