clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cubs 8, Pirates 7: Winning ugly

New, comments

This game had a little bit of everything, but the Cubs eventually ended up on top.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

An early lead, which led to a blown lead. A rain delay. Some good pitching and some bad pitching. Some really good defense.

All of that eventually added up to an 11-inning, 8-7 Cubs win over the Pirates, a game that ended around 11:30 p.m. Central time and felt like it lasted much longer than that.

Ian Happ gave the Cubs the lead on the second pitch of the game [VIDEO].

That one might have bounced into the Allegheny River:

The home run gave Happ 60 for his career. That’s a franchise record for switch-hitters; the previous holder, Augie Galan, hit 59 as a Cub from 1934-41. If you’re thinking 60 isn’t a lot for this sort of thing, you’re right; Happ now inhabits 126th place on the all-time home-run list for switch-hitters. It just means the Cubs haven’t had many power-hitting switch-hitters in franchise history. Third place on this list belongs to a guy named Walt Wilmot, who played in the 1890s (and led the NL in homers in 1890 with 13). Fourth place is held by Ben Zobrist with 40.

Anyway, back to the present day. The Cubs loaded the bases on two singles and a fielder’s choice in the second and a bases-loaded walk to Jason Kipnis made it 2-0. The Pirates countered with a run off Jon Lester in the bottom of the second, but a Kipnis RBI single made it 3-1 in the fourth.

Then the Cubs exploded for a three-run fifth. The just-returned Kris Bryant singled and one out later, Javier Baez doubled him in [VIDEO].

That 5-1 score didn’t last long, thanks to Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO].

Kyle just loves hitting baseballs at PNC:

Now it’s 6-1 and Lester is cruising and what could possibly go wrong? Well, you know I wouldn’t write the last words of that sentence unless something did go horribly wrong, and it did.

Lester, who threw a solid first five innings, ran out of gas in the sixth. By the time he was removed for Colin Rea, the Pirates had scored three runs and were hitting Lester hard. I mentioned great defense, and the Cubs got some from Happ, who made this spectacular catch [VIDEO] on a ball hit by Erik Gonzalez, the first hitter Rea faced.

A run scored on that play to make it 6-5, but if Happ doesn’t catch that ball, two runs score and Gonzalez likely winds up on third, so it very well could be called a game-saving catch.

The Cubs went fairly quietly in the seventh and eighth, and in the bottom of the eighth Ke’Bryan Hayes, who was making his major-league debut, homered off Dan Winkler. So congratulations to Hayes, I guess, but that tied things up at 6. Hayes, incidentally, is the son of former major leaguer Charlie Hayes, who played 14 MLB seasons with seven teams, including one year with the Pirates.

The Pirates threatened in the ninth, with a leadoff double followed by an intentional walk. Rowan Wick and Josh Osich, the latter making his Cubs debut, put down that Pirates rally and so we went to runner-on-second extra innings.

Len and JD, on the broadcast, noted that visiting teams generally want to try to score at least two runs in extras under these circumstances, because if they score just one the home team knows exactly what they must do to tie. That’s essentially what happened in the 10th inning here. The placed runner, Javier Baez, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a sacrifice fly. But that’s all the Cubs could muster and the Pirates’ placed runner advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a comebacker that Osich flipped to the plate just a fraction too late.

Osich’s first Cubs outing, though, was generally a good one. That run was charged to him (unearned, by rule), but apart from that run-scoring fielder’s choice he threw strikes — something some Cubs relievers have apparently forgotten how to do — and got the hitters he faced.

The Cubs’ placed runner in the 11th was Nico Hoerner, and he immediately scored the lead run on this single by Happ [VIDEO].

Jeremy Jeffress, who had been summoned to finish off the 10th, retired the first two in the 11th before Josh Bell was given a Manfred to set up a possible force play (including the placed runner). Jeffress then struck out Jacob Stallings on this perfect pitch [VIDEO] for the win.

A win’s a win, no matter how you accomplish it. I’m pretty sure the Cubs are happy they don’t have an afternoon game Wednesday, because they already had a very, very long day Tuesday even before the game:

As I have previously stated, I don’t hate the placed-runner rule in extras as much as I thought I would. It has had the effect desired, at least so far — games aren’t going as long as in previous years. There have been just two games this season longer than 12 innings. That’s good, although as I have also previously stated, games of 13 innings or longer are generally about 1.5 percent of all games. I understand the reasons for this rule in 2020. I hope they don’t use it going forward.

One note about Cubs bullpen use Tuesday:

Well now, there’s a cryptic note. You’ll also note that Craig Kimbrel wasn’t anywhere near this game. After his most recent meltdown in Cincinnati, I suspect Kimbrel is back to pitching in blowouts until he can figure out what’s wrong. But as Jim Deshaies mentioned on the broadcast, the Cubs need “good Kimbrel” if they are going to go anywhere in this year’s postseason.

The Cardinals also won Tuesday, crushing the Reds, so the Cubs maintain their three-game lead in the NL Central. The Brewers also lost, so Milwaukee trails by five games and Cincinnati by 6½.

If you’re looking ahead, Alec Mills is now slated to start Thursday afternoon in the series finale. That gives Yu Darvish an extra day of rest before he starts against the Cardinals Friday. That should set up the rest of the Cardinals series this way: Jose Quintana and (most likely) Adbert Alzolay in the doubleheader Saturday, Lester Sunday and Kyle Hendricks Monday.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. Before he faces the Cardinals, Hendricks will start Wednesday evening’s game in Pittsburgh. Joe Musgrove gets the call for the Pirates. Game time is again 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.