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Pirates 2, Cubs 1: Where’s the offense?

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Solo homers both helped and hurt the Cubs this weekend.

Here is the entire run-scoring offense for the Cubs on Sunday, a solo homer by Kyle Schwarber
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Someday, the Cubs will again score a run in a manner other than hitting a solo home run.

And they’ll do it more than once a game, too.

They did it again Sunday, Kyle Schwarber doing the “honors,” and the Cubs bullpen managed to get the game into extra innings before Adam Frazier of the Pirates homered in the 11th inning for a 2-1 Pirates win over the Cubs. It was the first run a Cubs reliever had allowed since last Tuesday, a span of 20 scoreless innings before the 11th on Sunday.

Jose Quintana threw pretty well. I say “pretty well” despite his numbers of five innings, four hits and one run because he kept running long counts and thus, when the Pirates began the sixth inning with a single, walk and RBI double by Gregory Polanco, that had to be it for Q after 93 pitches. He’s not done well this year the third time through the batting order and this was another case of that working against him.

Polanco’s double tied the game 1-1. The Cubs had been nursing a 1-0 lead — stop me if you’ve heard this before — on a solo homer by Schwarber in the second [VIDEO].

Schwarber crushes 22nd homer

Watching Kyle Schwarber demolish a baseball will never get old. #EverybodyIn

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Sunday, August 19, 2018

That was Kyle’s 22nd of the season and second of the series.

Both teams had their chances. First, the Pirates in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Colin Moran singled with one out and after Justin Wilson entered and struck out Corey Dickerson, Polanco doubled to left. That’s when Schwarber and Willson Contreras showed off some defense [VIDEO].

Schwarber made a great throw and Contreras a terrific tag. The Pirates challenged the home plate lane, saying there was a violation, but the review crew ruled “call confirmed,” that there was no violation.

In the eighth, Javier Baez doubled with two out and Anthony Rizzo was intentionally passed, but Victor Caratini struck out to end the inning. The Cubs got another two-out double from Jason Heyward in the ninth, but he was stranded.

That led to an interesting bottom of the ninth. Steve Cishek walked Josh Bell to lead off the frame, and Pedro Strop entered. Strop’s command was a bit off; after Josh Harrison bunted into a forceout, Strop walked Adeiny Hechavarria and hit David Freese to load the bases.

Joe Maddon waved Ben Zobrist in from right field to create a five-man infield. You never see this kind of thing work the way it’s drawn up... except for this time [VIDEO]. If you’re scoring at home, that’s a 4-9-3 double play, the second baseman (Baez) to the right fielder (Zobrist) to the first baseman (Anthony Rizzo) to send the game to extras.

No one scored in the 10th, although Polanco’s third double of the game put a runner in scoring position for the Pirates with one out. Strop got out of it with a fly to right and a ground ball to second.

The Cubs had an excellent chance to score in the 11th. Addison Russell doubled with one out and Schwarber was intentionally passed. A pitch that bounced only about six feet away from Pirates catcher Elias Diaz turned into a wild pitch when Russell aggressively took third. This happened while Willson Contreras was batting, but as good as that baserunning was, a couple of pitches later, Russell strayed too far from third base and was picked off.

Eventually Contreras walked, and so did Heyward, so the bases were loaded for Albert Almora Jr., the last position player on Joe’s bench. He was called out on strikes to end the inning.

Brandon Kintzler entered and recorded the first two outs in the last of the 11th on just eight pitches. Good stuff, right?

Well, yes, but after running a 3-0 count on Frazier, Kintzler laid a pitch in the zone and Frazier launched it and the Cubs had lost the game.

Cubs pitching was outstanding in this series (well, except for Tyler Chatwood). They allowed just seven runs in the four games. The Cubs defense also did an excellent job in all four games. The offense, though...

Someday, soon we hope, the Cubs will score a run, or runs, that come via some other means than a solo home run. Hopefully, starting Tuesday in Detroit.

The Brewers defeated the Cardinals to salvage one game from their three-game set in St. Louis and move back into second place. The Cubs lead Milwaukee by 3½ games and St. Louis by four, and lead both teams by five games in the loss column.

Coming up shortly after this article is posted, I will have a separate article on Yu Darvish and his early departure from his rehab start in South Bend, and what that might mean for the team going forward.

In the meantime, the Cubs will be off Monday — their last off day until September 13. They’ll spend it in Detroit, preparing to face the Tigers Tuesday evening at Comerica Park. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Jordan Zimmermann for the Tigers. TV coverage Tuesday is on NBC Sports Chicago.

And hey, the next two games are in an American League park, so the Cubs get an extra hitter via the DH. Perhaps then, they’ll remember how to score runs beyond solo homers.