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Cubs 3, Pirates 2: Hayden Wesneski is immaculate

The Cubs rookie posted the first immaculate inning for the team in 18 years.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The “immaculate inning” — where a pitcher strikes out all three batters he faces on nine pitches — has become more common in recent years as strikeouts in general have increased.

They’re still fairly rare, and until Thursday night, no Cubs pitcher had thrown one in 18 years, since LaTroy Hawkins did it against the Marlins September 11, 2004. Thursday, Hayden Wesneski did it in just his second MLB start (fourth appearance). It was yet another excellent outing from Wesneski, and the Cubs hung on for another one-run win, 3-2 over the Pirates, their third straight victory.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this win.

In the first inning, the Pirates had a runner on second with one out. It appeared Ben Gamel had reached on an error by Alfonso Rivas, but replay review overturned that call [VIDEO].

Rivas fumbled the ball and his toss to Wesneski was originally ruled “off the base” by first-base umpire Ryan Wills, but as you can see on the video, Wesneski did have his foot on the base when he took the throw from Rivas, so the inning ended.

The Cubs took the lead in the top of the second. David Bote led off the inning with a single and two outs later, Michael Hermosillo also singled. Christopher Morel’s double scored both runners [VIDEO].

The Pirates made it 2-1 in the third on an RBI single by Bryan Reynolds, and two innings later was when Wesneski’s immaculate inning occurred. He struck out Jack Suwinski, Zack Collins and Jason Delay on nine pitches [VIDEO].

There was a bit of confusion on the Marquee broadcast about exactly how many immaculate innings there have been in Cubs and MLB history, so let me set the record straight here.

It’s the fifth in Cubs history (at least as far as is known):

It’s the 111th in MLB history, per Wikipedia and, about a third the number of MLB no-hitters (317). Per the MLB article by Ed Eagle:

While the “immaculate inning” isn’t nearly as rare as it once was — there were none from 1929-52 and eight alone in 2017 — any pitcher who can plow through a big league lineup on nine straight strikes deserves a special place in the record book.

Wesneski’s gem is the sixth this year and the second in less than a week, as Ryan Helsley of the Cardinals did it against the Reds last Friday. Here are the pitch locations for Wesneski’s inning:

I mentioned Hawkins’ immaculate inning above, the most recent by a Cub before Thursday, and we’ve got video!

That inning was the ninth, and Hawkins nailed down his 21st save of the 2004 season with it. Nice to hear Pat Hughes on the call, too.

In the seventh with the game still 2-1, the Cubs scored a very important insurance run. Rivas led off with a single and, as Nelson Velázquez struck out, stole second. That steal was key, because Hermosillo’s single then scored Rivas to make it 3-1 [VIDEO].

In the bottom of the inning, Kevin Newman homered off Wesneski to make it 3-2, and one out later Brandon Hughes replaced Wesneski. The Cubs rookie had another solid start, 6⅓ innings, five hits, two runs, six strikeouts. Yes, it’s way too early to anoint him some kind of ace — he’s not, and might never be — and the league will adjust to him. But Wesneski has good mound presence, good stuff and a nice variety of pitches. I believe he will be a successful MLB starter — good trade, Jed Hoyer, even though Scott Effross is also a useful MLB pitcher.

Hughes got into trouble right away, issuing a walk and then appearing to roll his ankle on a follow-through. He stayed in the game and Delay doubled. Eventually, with runners on second and third, Reynolds was intentionally passed and Mark Leiter Jr. was summoned to face Rodolfo Castro. Leiter struck out Castro to end the inning.

Leiter got through the eighth without giving up a run, and David Ross let him stay in the game to finish up. After he struck out Collins to begin the ninth, Leiter hit Ke’Bryan Hayes. Then he struck out Oneil Cruz, but Reynolds walked while Hayes stole third. Then Reynolds stole second, putting the tying and winning runs in scoring position. You could tell Leiter was running out of gas, but he had enough left to get this line drive to center to end the game [VIDEO].

Okay, so the Pirates aren’t very good but a win is a win, and Wesneski’s feat is worth celebrating. The win brought the Cubs back to 20 games under .500, and they’ve won seven of their last 10. With 12 games remaining, they must go 8-4 to avoid losing 90, which is still possible, given the teams they’re playing the rest of the way.

They’ll go for four straight wins Friday night at PNC Park. Javier Assad will start for the Cubs and Bryse Wilson will get the call for the Pirates. Game time is again 5:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.