PITTSBURGH — You knew this likely wasn’t going to be the Cubs’ night when they scored a run in the first inning and had the bases loaded with one out, but could not score further, even though Pirates starter Joe Musgrove threw 27 pitches...
Oh, wait. You don’t want to talk about that or the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to the Pirates, do you?
Now, to me that looks exactly like what happened Monday with Anthony Rizzo — a slide to break up a double play. Jim Deshaies says, immediately, “Double play — he came off the bag.” And yet, after the umpires discussed things with the New York review crew, they were told this play was not reviewable.
Um, what? How was the Monday play reviewable (and also get a “clarification” from MLB officials), while this one isn’t? Here’s what Musgrove said:
More Musgrove on his confrontation with Baez: pic.twitter.com/8VBaBxPu0I— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) May 31, 2018
So, right there Musgrove admits it’s retaliation, although perhaps that’s too strong a word. “Retribution,” perhaps? Sure, Musgrove is right, it was a clean slide, but I think our own Sara Sanchez sums things up best:
*took exception to a slide that @MLB went out of their way to clarify was illegal against his teammate yesterday.— Sara Sanchez (@BCB_Sara) May 31, 2018
Benches cleared, and the funniest thing about watching “benches clear” these days is to watch relief pitchers run in from bullpens, only to arrive mostly after things are all settled. I suppose they have to do it, supporting their teammates and all, but it’s still amusing. No one got hurt, no one was ejected, and this play had no effect on the outcome of the game, as no runs scored in the inning.
What did have an effect on the outcome of the game was the inability of the Cubs to score with runners on base. I already noted the bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first in which they didn’t score, but they also had RISP in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings and couldn’t score. The situation in the fourth was perhaps the most frustrating, as they had runners on first and second with nobody out, with Kyle Hendricks preparing to bunt them over a base, when Addison Russell got himself picked off second.
I just don’t see how you can do that. It’s not a situation where you’re going to try to steal, and if Hendricks lays down a good bunt, the runners should be able to move up. The Cubs could have had runners on second and third with one out, instead, after Hendricks was called out on strikes (for the second time), all they had was Jason Heyward on first with two out.
With Russell on third and Heyward on first and two out in the sixth, Joe chose to lift Hendricks for Tommy La Stella. This was a reasonable choice, as TLS has been an excellent pinch-hitter this year. But Musgrove got him to ground to first to end the inning.
The Cubs bullpen did its usual fine work in keeping this one close. Randy Rosario allowed a hit in the sixth, but got out of it with a double play. Cory Mazzoni issued a one-out walk in the seventh, and one out later was replaced by Justin Wilson, who issued another walk and then balked both runners up a base. (You’re forgiven if you thought, as I did, “Here we go again” with Wilson.) But Wilson got Francisco Cervelli to fly to center to end the inning, and also threw a scoreless eighth. Looks like Joe wanted to leave him out there to see if he could handle a fairly high-leverage situation. He did so, and so perhaps can be tentatively trusted to do that again.
The Cubs got a runner to scoring position again in the ninth off Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez on singles by Heyward and Baez, but Kris Bryant grounded to third to end the game. Bryant’s in a 3-for-22 (.136) slump, and it would be nice to see him come out of that, and soon.
Meanwhile, let me pause again to praise Jason Heyward. First, for this tremendous throw [VIDEO].
That also helped keep the game close after a throwing error by Russell put a runner in scoring position. Heyward also went 3-for-3 with a walk, and since May 19 is hitting .370/.387/.444 (10-for-27) with a double, two triples, three walks and seven RBI. I’d say that’s actually a hot streak, and in so doing he’s raised his season numbers to .256/.336/.384. He’s also finally looking like the Heyward on defense that we’ve known over the past two seasons.
Now, if only the Cubs could get the offense rolling on a consistent basis. They scored 15 runs over the first two games of this series, yet were held to just one Wednesday night. Give some credit to the Pirates pitchers, sure, but the Cubs have to do better situational hitting.
The announced crowd at PNC Park of 14,126 looked like about half that many, a bit of a surprise on a beautiful 79-degree night, and at least a quarter of those in the park were Cubs fans. I don’t know, maybe Pirates fans are unhappy that Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole were traded, but the Bucs did get some quality players in return in those deals, including Musgrove from the Astros. The Pirates, not expected to do much this year, are still hanging in the division race. I just wish they’d play baseball. Hopefully all of the extracurricular stuff will be left behind the next time the two teams meet in Pittsburgh, which won’t be until the end of July. They will, however, match up at Wrigley Field beginning a week from Friday, a three-game set starting June 8.
I do always enjoy visiting PNC Park, probably my favorite ballpark apart from Wrigley Field. It’s beautiful, sightlines are excellent, the backdrop is gorgeous, gameday employees are well-trained, friendly and helpful, and the entire experience Wednesday night was outstanding, apart from the result of the game.
Oh, and one more thing:
Blue alt: 3-10
Road gray: 10-2
I know that what the Cubs wear has nothing to do with how they play. But for superstition’s sake, please, Cubs. Stop wearing the blue jerseys!
And despite the loss, the Cubs remained in second place in the N.L. Central, 4x games behind the Brewers, who defeated the Cardinals Wednesday. The Brewers are off Thursday, while the Cubs head to New York to open a four-game series at Citi Field against the Mets. Jose Quintana will be on the mound for the Cubs against the Mets’ Seth Lugo. Game time Thursday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via NBC Sports Chicago.