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Pirates 6, Cubs 2: Ian Happ’s foul ball hits him in the face in a dull loss

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Fortunately, the injury isn’t serious. But the Cubs offense was hurting on this day.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs’ 6-2 loss to the Pirates Thursday afternoon was everything the team did not need:

  • A scary moment for Ian Happ when his foul at the plate bounced up and hit him in the face
  • Another mediocre outing for Alec Mills
  • Some sketchy baserunning by the Cubs
  • More failures to hit with runners in scoring position and the bases loaded

Let’s start with the worst of those, the injury to Happ. He was at bat with a 2-2 count in the fourth inning when... ouch [VIDEO].

Looking at it slowed down, you can see the ball hit something — not sure if it was his foot, the plate or just the dirt — and hit him just below his right eye. Happ left the game and Cameron Maybin finished his at-bat by hitting into a force play.

Fortunately, this injury does not appear to be serious:

The Cubs took an early lead in this game. In the second inning Kyle Schwarber singled and one out later Jason Heyward walked. That brought up Victor Caratini [VIDEO].

The Cubs scored another run in the third — but here’s where things went off the rails, because they probably should have scored more. A single by Jason Kipnis and double by Happ put runners on second and third and then Kris Bryant hit a ground ball to third [VIDEO].

The misplay scored a run to make it 2-0, the Cubs have runners on first and third with nobody out and appear to have JT Brubaker on the ropes... but nothing. Anthony Rizzo grounded out but Happ had to hold at third, and Javier Baez and Schwarber struck out.

That was a key inning. The Cubs could have blown the game open; instead it’s still only 2-0 and the Pirates made the runs back and more in a four-run third, the key blow a three-run homer by Bryan Reynolds off Alec Mills.

You know, Mills does have talent and I want to like him but... he seems to have such a small margin for error:

I hate to say it’s back to the drawing board for him, but it might be. Right now the Cubs have only two reliable starting pitchers — Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks — and they’re likely going to have to see what Adbert Alzolay can give them going forward.

The Cubs had their chances to score again in the fourth. They had three straight singles. Why no runs? Well, after the first of those hits, Willson Contreras tried to steal second. C’mon, Willson, You’re a decent baserunner but you shouldn’t be doing that, especially not with the team now down two runs. That was followed by the Happ Incident, so now the Cubs are not only down the two runs, but down their best hitter.

Then the Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, still down only two runs. You have seen this movie before. Kipnis struck out and Maybin flied to left, nothing doing.

After that, the Pirates put the game out of reach with a pair of runs off Jason Adam, whose ERA went down because the runs were unearned because of his own throwing error. I’m guessing when Alzolay joins the team over the weekend, Adam’s heading back to South Bend and won’t be seen again.

I did want to point out that on this called strikeout of Bryant in the seventh, no, CB Bucknor, that pitch (pitch 7 below) was not a strike:

I suppose one good thing that came out of this game was the garbage-time inning Craig Kimbrel threw, the eighth. He retired all three hitters he faced, was hitting 97-98 again, and threw some nice curveballs, seven strikes in eight pitches. Why this Kimbrel can show up when nothing’s really at stake, but when the game’s on the line (as it was when he blew it last Saturday) he can’t throw a strike to save his life. Sounds like he might need a conference with mental skills coordinator John Baker.

The Cardinals, Reds and Brewers all had the day off Thursday. The Cubs’ lead over St. Louis was cut to 3½ games, so that means they can at least maintain that large a margin by winning three of five this weekend. The Brewers trail by 4½ and the Reds are six games back.

NL Central note: Look who’s a Brewer now!

The big five-game set against the Cardinals opens at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Wrigley Field. It’s a top pitching matchup: Yu Darvish vs. Jack Flaherty. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.