The Pirates drifted through another desultory loss, dropping an 8-2 game to the Cubs. They used the game as a good opportunity to exhibit their many inadequacies in a thorough and methodical fashion.
For the first three innings of his return from the injured list, Joe Musgrove looked great. The first batter he faced doubled, but then he retired nine straight, including four strikeouts.
In the fourth, it came apart. The first two hitters singled and doubled, and Musgrove left with two on. Nick Tropeano replaced him and promptly gave up a three-run bomb to Javier Baez.
Derek Holland, who no longer needs to be showcased for the trade deadline, threw the last five innings. He pitched well for two. In the seventh, when he gave up three hits and two runs. He seemingly got out of the eighth when Anthony Alford caught a Willson Contreras line drive with two on and two out. The Cubs challenged the play, though, and it was ruled a trap, letting in one run. Then two more came in when Kevin Newman let an easy grounder roll between his legs. It was the Pirates’ third error of the game and major-league-leading 33rd of the year. That’s in spite of them having played fewer games than most teams; they have the lowest fielding percentage in MLB by far.
The Pirates’ hitters, meanwhile, were having the same experience they had yesterday with Jon Lester, except without the biblically bad umpiring. Like Lester, Kyle Hendricks didn’t throw a ton of strikes. He got behind a lot, but the Pirates couldn’t take advantage. They got a temporary, 1-0 lead in the second when Colin Moran ripped a 450-foot blast for his seventh home run. Through six innings, they had six hits and two walks, but went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, stranded six, and lost a runner when Adam Frazier got picked off.
Once Hendricks was gone, Alford — who’d already singled for his first Pirate hit — led off the seventh with a blast over the notch. It was his second longball of the season. And that was the last offense the Pirates got for the game, as a couple of relievers with high ERAs shut them down easily in the eighth and ninth. Ke’Bryan Hayes’ second game didn’t go so well; he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Cole Tucker looked totally befuddled. Gregory Polanco had two hits.
The Pirates are now 10-24. Maybe they can address some obvious questions. Like, why keep bothering with Derek Holland instead of letting somebody younger put up a 7+ ERA? Why persist, after being one of MLB’s worst defensive teams for six straight years, in regarding the entire roster as utility players? Why not find some outfielders to play the outfield?