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Cubs 8, Pirates 3: A tale of three games

... with a tiny little dash of complaint department at the end.

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

There were three different sub-plot games within the Cubs’ 8-3 win over the Pirates Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, a win that gave the Cubs both the series win and a 10-9 edge in the season series over the Bucs. It’s the first time in franchise history the Cubs have won the season series from the Pirates eight straight years.

The first of those games was a fast-paced pitchers’ duel in which Adrian Sampson hardly threw any pitches at all (more on that later) and the Cubs couldn’t do anything with 100 mile per hour Pirates rookie Luis Ortiz.

But as soon as Ortiz left the game after 80 pitches, the Cubs piled runs on the board, beginning with a three-run homer by Patrick Wisdom.

There shouldn’t have been a third “game,” but Erich Uelmen had a very rough ninth inning in which he allowed two runs and loaded the bases with two out, so David Ross had to call on Brandon Hughes to nail down the victory. (More on that later, too.)

Let’s go back to the beginning. Sampson was mowing down Pirates quickly — five pitches in the first inning, six in the second.

The Cubs put just three men on base against Ortiz, two walks and a single, but after the second of those walks, drawn by Zach McKinstry with two out in the fifth, Ortiz was lifted for Manny Banuelos. Banuelos walked Esteban Quiroz and then Wisdom sent a ball into orbit [VIDEO].

Did I say orbit? Well, not quite, but pretty far:

That home run gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead and also accomplished this:

Sampson allowed something that has become traditional, in the bottom of the sixth: A solo home run by Bryan Reynolds, his 26th, and fourth against the Cubs this year. But overall Sampson was outstanding, throwing 67 pitches (43 strikes) in his fourth straight quality start. From our own JohnW53:

Adrian Sampson threw 67 pitches in six innings.

Last Cub to complete a start with fewer pitches in at least six innings was Rich Hill: 66, vs. the Dodgers at Los Angeles May 27, 2007.

Kerry Wood (September 7, 2001) and Kevin Foster (September 3, 1995) both threw 66 in six innings.

Anthony Young threw 64 in six innings June 29, 1994.

On July 5, 1963, Larry Jackson threw 63 in seven innings.

Then Rick Sutcliffe threw 62 in seven innings August 22, 1988.

Sampson is the 13th Cub starter to throw no more than 67 pitches while working at least six innings.

Also, re: Sampson and Cubs starters in the second half of the season:

The Cubs put three more on the board in the seventh. Quiroz singled and Wisdom was hit by a pitch. Ian Happ’s single made it 4-1 [VIDEO].

Nico Hoerner then struck out, but Happ stole second, putting runners on second and third with one out. Then this happened [VIDEO].

Looked like Oneil Cruz tried to throw the ball home before he had it; instead it got through to left field and two runs scored to make it 6-1.

The Cubs made it 8-1 in the eighth. Alfonso Rivas led off with a single and one out later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Zach McKinstry walked and Quiroz singled in a run [VIDEO].

That moved McKinstry to third, where, one out later, he scored on this play [VIDEO].

That was similar to the play Friday where Christopher Morel wound up out at the plate on a wild pitch. The stone wall behind the plate lets balls that get away bounce back quickly; in this case catcher Jason Delay got it and tried to throw McKinstry out at third. Instead he threw the ball into left field, the Pirates’ fourth error of the afternoon, and McKinstry scored to make it 8-1.

While all this was going on, Keegan Thompson threw two shutout innings, allowing just one baserunner (a leadoff walk in the seventh), after which he retired six straight, three by strikeout. Thompson threw only 27 pitches (17 strikes), which is why I was a bit surprised Ross sent Uelmen out for the ninth. Why not let Thompson finish up? This is where the complaint department door opens up just a tiny bit, because Uelmen allowed a pair of hits and two walks and hit a batter and by the time Ross had to lift him for Hughes, Uelmen had thrown six more pitches than Thompson had.

With the tying run on deck, Hughes got this fly ball to end it [VIDEO], and posted his seventh save.

The Cubs thus finished a satisfying 5-2 road trip, their first winning trip since mid-August, when they also went 5-2 with stops in Iowa, Cincinnati, Washington and Baltimore. The win gave the Cubs a 32-29 record since the All-Star break, and here’s another tidbit on this victory from JohnW53:

This will be just the second game that the Cubs ever have won in which they scored at least eight runs despite striking out at least 15 times.

The only previous such win was by 9-7 at Colorado on April 22, 2018. They had 15 strikeouts in that one.

They had 16 in an 8-10, 17-inning loss to the Pirates at home on April 20, 1986.

They had 15 in a 10-8 loss at home to the Diamondbacks on August 3, 2017.

They have had 12 games in which they scored eight or more runs and exactly 14 strikeouts. They were 10-2 in those games, including an 8-7 win over the Brewers at home on August 19.

With nine games remaining, the Cubs must go 6-3 to avoid 90 losses. That’s still quite possible, with six of the nine against the Reds.

Before that, though, the Cubs will take their final off day of 2022 Monday, then begin a three-game series against the contending Phillies Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. Marcus Stroman will start for the Cubs and Zach Wheeler will get the call for Philadelphia. Game time is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.