Offense Lets Down the Pitchers as Pirates Get Swept by Cubs

The Pirates got an outstanding effort from their pitching staff, which held the Cubs to four hits over eleven innings.  That effort was wasted, though, by bad baserunning and the continuing inability of their offense to hit any bipedal mammal.  The Bucs produced only six hits in 36 at-bats.  That included an 0-for-6 from Guillermo Heredia and Erik Gonzalez, who gave the new regime a chance to evaluate their combined .080 average in person.  The end result was a 2-1 Cubs’ win in eleven, with a rain delay thrown in.  The win gave the home team a three-game sweep and left the Pirates with a 2-7 record.

The Pirates got one of their few leads of the season when Kevin Newman connected for his first home run of the season in the first.  And then the offense took the rest of the day off.  Starting in the third inning, Jon Lester retired ten straight batters, a streak broken only by an error.

Lester departed after six innings.  The Pirates couldn’t score off former teammate Casey Sadler, who threw a scoreless inning and two-thirds.  Sadler got an assist in the eighth from Derek Shelton, who bizarrely had Newman sacrifice with Adam Frazier on first and one out.  The visitors also couldn’t do anything in the ninth after a leadoff walk to Phillip Evans.

The Pirates got an impressive, but abbreviated, start from Steve Brault.  The lefty retired all nine batters he faced, fanning four.  It took him only 35 pitches, 27 of them strikes.  Given the staff they have, the Pirates are going to have to loosen the leash some.

Chad Kuhl replaced Brault and had a quick fourth inning, but ran into trouble in the fifth.  Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber doubled to start the inning, tying the game.  Kuhl got an out and walked a batter, then departed with an abrasion on his finger.  Geoff Hartlieb closed out the inning.

In the sixth through the eighth, Dovydas Neverauskas, Nik Turley and Rich Rodriguez each threw a scoreless inning for the Bucs.  Nick Burdi was ready for the bottom of the ninth, but the rain delay intervened.  The Bucs instead went with newly activated Sam Howard, who had a quick ninth.

The tenth was frustrating.  With Jacob Stallings starting the inning on second, Josh Bell, pinch hitting for Erik Gonzalez, grounded a single into left.  In another flashback to recent years, Joey Cora sent the slow-moving Stallings for home with nobody out.  The throw was up the line toward third, but Stallings was 30 feet from the plate when it arrived and was tagged out.  The Pirates’ challenge over Contreras blocking the plate was denied.

Howard was impressive again in the bottom of the tenth, getting two strikeouts and a popup, the last two outs coming with the winning run on third.  But the Pirates again flashed back to their Hurdle-era basepath ineptitude in the eleventh.  Newman started on second, but went for third and got thrown out when Jose Osuna grounded to short.

Another new callup, Cody Ponce, got a chance in the eleventh and the game quickly ended.  A flyball put the free runner on third with one out and Javier Baez drove in the run with a grounder up the middle.

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