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Cubs 8, Pirates 3: Sweep, part 2

The Cubs swept the Pirates for the second time in a week, a great lead-in for the London Series.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

LONDON — The Cubs prepared for their trip overseas in the best possible way, by completing another three-game sweep over the Pirates, winning 8-3 Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park. The Cubs have won 10 of their last 12 and after a rough start to June, are now 12-7 this month.

The Pirates scored first in this one, taking advantage of one of three walks Kyle Hendricks issued. That walk, in the second inning, was followed by a run-scoring double by Jose Palacios.

But that Pirates lead evaporated quickly. Miguel Amaya led off the third inning with a double and Mike Tauchman walked. A sacrifice by Nick Madrigal moved the runners up. I’m not usually a big proponent of sac bunts, but the Cubs have made that play work for them over the last couple of weeks.

That bunt, though successful, wasn’t really necessary because Nico Hoerner drove both runners in with this triple [VIDEO].

That gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead and it became 3-1 moments later when Seiya Suzuki scored Hoerner with this sac fly [VIDEO].

Hendricks continued mowing down Pirates, allowing just that one hit through the fifth inning. In the sixth, the Cubs extended their lead after the first two hitters were routine outs. Christopher Morel reached on a throwing error by Ke’Bryan Hayes. Trey Mancini was then hit by a pitch.

Ian Happ drove both runners in to make it 5-1 [VIDEO].

Nico made it 6-1 in the seventh with his fifth home run [VIDEO].

Hendricks ran out of gas in the bottom of the seventh and loaded the bases with a hit batter and walk after a leadoff single and fly out. Mark Leiter Jr. entered and recorded the second out via strikeout, but two Pirates runs then scored on this misplay [VIDEO].

Sorry, gotta say it: That doesn’t happen if Cody Bellinger is playing first base. Trey Mancini is just not a good defender. That play shows the value of strong 1B defense. The runs were charged to Hendricks, but unearned due to the error, so Kyle’s game finished with 6⅓ innings, two hits allowed and one earned run. That lowered his ERA to 2.60 and gave him another quality start, his fourth in a row. Anyone still not convinced the Professor is back?

The Cubs got the runs right back in the eighth. Ian Happ doubled with one out. After Yan Gomes struck out for the second out, Amaya and Mike Tauchman walked to load the bases. The Pirates changed pitchers but it didn’t matter, as Madrigal singled in a pair of runs [VIDEO].

Julian Merryweather threw a scoreless eighth, but let me open the complaint department a tiny bit here. Merryweather issued a pair of walks and threw 28 pitches. That’s way too many for a single inning of work. Sure, Merryweather got the third out and wasn’t scored on, but he’s going to have to work more efficiently and throw more strikes. Velocity alone isn’t enough.

Michael Fulmer was much more efficient, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth on just eight pitches. He has begun to throw better and now has 11 straight outings without allowing an earned run, dropping his beleaguered season ERA to 5.12. (No, that’s not good, but before this stretch began it was 7.84, so yes, that’s a significant improvement.)

Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

Game facts from BCB’s JohnW53:

The last time the Cubs were just two games under .500 was on May 14 when they were 19-21 after a 16-3 drubbing at Minnesota. The Cubs have won seven in a row from the Pirates (six this year), 11 of 12 and 12 of 14. That 12-2 stretch began with a win at Pittsburgh one year ago tomorrow.

In an effort to find a baseball-type place to watch this game in London, I was told about Passyunk Avenue, a Philly-themed sports bar where they were happy to put the Cubs game on a TV for me. Here’s what it looks like (with the Cubs game shown in the upper left):

Al Yellon

It was started by an expat from south Philly. Friendly people, good cheesesteaks, would recommend. And I managed to get back to begin writing before dark, as the sun sets here at 9:22 p.m. and it’s still not quite dark at nearly a quarter to 10 as I finished up this recap.

I am recommending the Cubs, too, as they head overseas to take on the Cardinals in London Stadium Saturday and Sunday. At this writing the Diamondbacks are defeating the Brewers; if that score holds up the Cubs will be just two games back of the Brewers for second place. The Reds won their 11th (!) in a row Wednesday afternoon, their longest winning streak since 1957 (!), so the Cubs still trail them by 3½ games.

The Cubs will have two days off while they get themselves set for the series opener in London Saturday. The Cubs have taken over a pub in Central London tomorrow, where we are told there will be former Cubs in attendance and a live broadcast on the Score that begins at 8 a.m. CT:

I’ll be there at some point during the day and write up the goings-on. Then, the teams are having a batting practice open to ticket holders (I was able to get one) Friday in the early afternoon, so I’ll report on that as well. We’ll have lots of other material here the next couple of days, so stick around!

Saturday evening (London time)/afternoon (Chicago time), Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Adam Wainwright will go for St. Louis. The team noted that Drew Smyly will be available out of the bullpen both Saturday and Sunday. Game time Saturday is 12:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Fox-TV. It’s a full national broadcast with no blackouts.

Can’t wait.