The Cubs did their best to bumble away the third game of their series with the Pirates at Wrigley. They handed the Pirates a 6-3 lead, but the visitors weren’t having any of it. Chris Stratton eventually blew a 6-4 lead in the ninth and the Pirates lost, 7-6. Their current losing streak is now five.
The Pirates got a quick lead when their second batter, Yoshi Tsutsugo, launched his sixth home run. The Pirates have said they need to find out about Tsutsugo, which is why he’s started only five of their last nine games
J.T. Brubaker, just back from the injured list, looked good for two innings. He gave up singles to the first two hitters he faced, but picked Rafael Ortega off second, then fanned the next two hitters. Ortega got some revenge in the next half inning, going a long ways to track down a drive by Brubaker that was headed for extra bases.
Brubaker had minimal trouble in the second and third, but things went bad in the fourth. A double and a walk started it, then Brubaker left with right shoulder discomfort partway through the next at-bat. Sam Howard came on to finish the walk, which was charged to Brubaker. Then Howard, wary enough not to allow a pop up near Wilmer Difo, let all three runners score on a single and a pair of ground outs.
In the top of the fifth, the Cubs tried to be good hosts. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out. Kyle Hendricks then walked Colin Moran and hit Anthony Alford to force in two runs. Chicago turned to its slapped-together bullpen, which has made mincemeat of baseball’s worst lineup so far in this series. They started with Trevor Megill, whose ERA had dropped to 9.60 thanks to the Pirates. He wild pitched in a run, then Difo bounced one through the left side for two more. That made it 6-3, Bucs.
Duane Underwood, Jr., came on to give up a longball to the legendary Frank Schwindel in the fifth, and then the Cubs’ bullpen took over. Michael Rucker (9.72 ERA), Rex Brothers (4.94) and Scott Effross (6.75) blew the Pirates away over the last four innings, striking out six.
Underwood left with his own right shoulder discomfort after walking the first batter in the bottom of the sixth. That brought on Chasen Shreve, who got through two scoreless innings.
Then came Chis Stratton. He had a quick eighth, but had to come back for the ninth. That was because Derek Shelton had maneuvered himself into having to use David Bednar for two innings in the Pirates’ loss two days ago. Stratton got two outs with a single in between, but walked the next batter and gave up an RBI single. The next batter, Ortega, lined one to right that should have been caught, but Ben Gamel took a poor route to the ball and let it clank off his glove for a game-tying single that should have been ruled an error. And then the immortal Schwindel grounded one into the hole at short. Kevin Newman made a great play, but his throw pulled Moran off the bag and Moran missed the tag.
The Pirates will continue their quest to find out whether anybody on their current roster resembles a major league player, even a little bit. So far, it appears their Waiver Wonders are markedly inferior to the Cubs’. That says something, considering that the Cubs only started burrowing through the bargain bins a little over a month ago, while the Pirates have been at it for two years. They did get two hits and two steals today from Alford, who vaulted all the way over .200, which is rarefied territory for a Pirate hitter.
UPDATE: I just had to add this, quoting Alex Stumpf:
Shelton was short handed in the bullpen, needing to lean on Shreve and Chris Stratton for two innings each. Shreve posted two zeros, and Stratton was one out away from doing the same.
How can you be short handed in the bullpen when you have TEN RELIEVERS ON THE ACTIVE ROSTER??