The Cubs had lost seven in a row entering Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
They had held leads in the seventh inning or later in the last three of those seven defeats. And the same situation held in Wednesday’s game — the Cubs took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
This time, solid relief pitching held that lead and the Cubs broke the seven-game streak with a 3-2 win over the Pirates.
Kyle Hendricks began this game well, looking more like the Kyle we’ve been used to for the past several seasons. But the Cubs could do nothing against Pirates righthander Roansy Contreras, making his MLB debut. The game remained scoreless through four innings.
This was fun, though:
Willson Contreras went 1-for-2 against Roansy Contreras, singling in the first inning, grounding out in the third. The two are not related, though as you probably know, Willson Contreras does have a brother playing in MLB, William Contreras, a catcher for the Braves. Willson and William have yet to play in the same MLB game.
The Cubs broke the scoreless tie in the fifth. With one out, Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel singled, Ortega taking third on Frank the Tank’s hit. Willson Contreras brought in a run with this sacrifice fly [VIDEO].
That ball didn’t miss being a three-run homer by much.
In the top of the sixth, Hendricks allowed back-to-back hits leading off the inning, a single by Yoshi Tsutsugo and an RBI triple to Bryan Reynolds, tying the game.
At that point David Ross took Hendricks out of the game. That’s a defensible move this late in the season, though Kyle had thrown only 78 pitches and didn’t seem to be struggling or tired.
Adam Morgan entered and immediately loaded the bases on a walk and hit batter, and then a sacrifice fly gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, the second run charged to Hendricks, who ends his career-worst season with a 4.77 ERA. At the moment he leads MLB with 200 hits allowed; Patrick Corbin and Jordan Lyles both have 192, so either could surpass Hendricks before Sunday. Here’s hoping that Kyle has a restful offseason in which he can figure out what went wrong in 2021 and come back as the No. 1 starter he can be.
The Cubs took the lead back in the seventh. With one out, Trayce Thompson batted for Morgan and doubled. A sacrifice bunt moved Thompson to third. Schwindel then walked.
The Pirates then changed pitchers and made a flurry of defensive moves. Chasen Shreve entered to pitch, and Schwindel took second uncontested, granted a stolen base. The Cubs have 80 stolen bases this year, nearly double the 43 they had in the last full season, 2019. The 80 steals rank fourth in the National League and are the most for any Cubs team since they had 95 in 2015.
Again, Willson didn’t miss a three-run homer by much with that hit. But he drove in all three Cubs runs and went 2-for-3 on the evening. I’d like to see him finish strong in the season’s final four game.
With the lead, it was up to the Cubs bullpen to finish things off, and you know how that’s been lately.
This time, they were up to the task. Scott Effross threw a scoreless seventh. I have a story to tell here. I had noticed that Effross had not walked a batter so far this year. He’d faced 50 hitters before Wednesday. I did a little baseball-reference searching and found this was pretty rare, to have a pitcher face at least 50 batters in a season and not walk anyone. I was going to save this and do a little writeup if he had made it to Sunday with no walks.
So what happens? Effross walked the first batter he faced Wednesday. Sorry, I guess that’s my fault.
In the top of the eighth, Trent Giambrone, just called up from Triple-A Iowa to make his MLB debut, batted for Effross. He slapped the first pitch he saw into left field for a single [VIDEO].
Congratulations and welcome to the Show, Trent. He became the 65th man to play for the Cubs in 2021. That establishes a new National League record. The old record of 64 was held by the 2019 Giants. The MLB record is 67, held by the 2019 Mariners. Seems pretty unlikely the Cubs can add two or three more players who haven’t previously played for the team thi year in the next four days, but you never know.
Giambrone trivia note:
For the uniform number peeps: Giambrone is wearing #85, the first to wear it for the #Cubs.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 30, 2021
Cubs currently have three players wearing numbers that had previously never been used in franchise history: Giambrone, Alzolay (#73) and Megill (#74).
More for “the uniform number peeps,” as Meghan Montemurro puts it: Those three numbers were all worn by these players in spring training. While many players used to change from high numbers to lower ones for the regular season, I have noticed more and more players doing this, keeping their spring numbers when they are called up, and not just Cubs players.
Here are the remaining numbers (99 or lower) that have never been worn by a Cubs player in the regular season (though some have been worn by coaches): 69, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93, 95, 97 and 98. (Yes, some MLB players have worn No. 69 in the regular season — here’s a list.)
Back to the game: Rowan Wick, who has struggled lately, threw a scoreless eighth. Codi Heuer was called on to finish things, and he threw a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
The Cubs will go for the series win Thursday evening in Pittsburgh. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and another rookie, Miguel Yajure, is the scheduled starter for the Pirates. Game time is again 5:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.