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Cubs 4, Pirates 3: All’s well that ends well

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This one wasn’t as easy as it first seemed.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

This game started out like it was going to be a breeze.

Zach Davies was mowing down Pirates, hinting that he might even be a candidate to throw a Maddux.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were drawing walks at nearly the pace they had given them up on Opening Day, and timely hitting gave them a 3-0 lead.

But... Davies made one mistake, and the bullpen was a bit shaky, but fortunately the newly-rejuvenated Craig Kimbrel made 1-2-3 work of the Bucs in the ninth and so the Cubs had a 4-3 win and a 2-1 start to the 2021 season.

The Cubs put two runners on base in the first inning on walks sandwiched around a Willson Contreras strikeout and then Kris Bryant gave them a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].

Anthony Rizzo went to third on Bryant’s RBI single and scored on an infield grounder by Joc Pederson to make it 2-0.

Davies was outstanding through the first five innings. He allowed just two walks and a single in that time and just one runner got past first base through five.

Meanwhile, Ian Happ extended the Cubs’ lead to 3-0 leading off the third [VIDEO].

Fun fact:

That ball was crushed!

Davies ran out of gas in the sixth. With two out, Bryan Reynolds singled and Colin Moran homered and suddenly it was a one-run game. Davies faced two more hitters before leaving to a warm ovation. The home run was his only real mistake — if not for the single and homer, Davies might have been able to complete seven innings. He was getting outs on weak contact and using his changeup for strikeouts, 58 strikes in 88 pitches. Does that sound like any other Cubs pitcher you know?

Davies was also helped out by good defense like this [VIDEO].

The Cubs got the run right back in the bottom of the sixth. Bryant led off with a double and one out later, scored on this error [VIDEO].

I’ve watched that video multiple times and I don’t see the error there. That’s one of those scoring decisions that could eventually be changed.

The Cubs managed to load the bases later in that inning with just one out, but pinch-hitter Matt Duffy hit into a hard-luck double play to end the inning.

So it was up to the bullpen to hold the 4-2 lead and Ryan Tepera did a good job of that, recording four straight outs in the seventh and beginning the eighth. But when David Ross brought in Rex Brothers... yikes. Three straight hits produced a Pirates run, and granted, one of those hits was an infield grounder that tied up Javier Baez, but Brothers was fortunate to get out of the inning on a double play.

The Cubs didn’t score in the eighth and that set things up for Kimbrel, who is looking like th guy the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him in June 2019. He struck out the first two hitters he faced and got Wilmer Difo to hit this soft liner to Javy to end it [VIDEO].

Kimbrel hit 97 on several of his fastballs and that’s really good news. That’s the velocity at which he’s most effective. He also spotted his curveball well for strikes in this one. To have the good Kimbrel at the end of games is a huge boost to this team.

Two out of three is all that can be asked for just about any three-game series, no matter that this Pirates team might lose 100 games this season. The Cubs have looked like the team I thought they could be over the last two games. They now sit tied for first place with the Reds in the NL Central at 2-1, with the other three Central teams at 1-2.

The Brewers will come to Wrigley Field to begin a three-game set Monday evening. Trevor Williams will make his Cubs debut and his Milwaukee opponent will be former Cub Brett Anderson. Game time is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.