The Pirates continued their September tryout camp in the last installment of their four-game series at Wrigley Field. The tryouts are going well, as scouts from the Atlantic League lined up to get a look at potential signees. Their excitement only increased as the Pirates, in their own special, embarrassing way, finished getting swept by the Cubs’ replacement team, thus tamping down any potential interest in waiver claims. The 11-8 loss was their sixth straight, giving them six streaks of at least that length.
For the second game in a row, Yoshi Tsutsugo gave the Pirates a first-inning lead with a home run. This one was his seventh of the year.
Wil Crowe didn’t follow his usual pattern of getting bombed in the first and fifth innings. He did, however, follow his usual pattern of not being much good. He got through a scoreless first, but started the second by giving up back-to-back home runs to badly struggling scrap heap pickup Matt Duffy and the equally struggling albatross, Jason Heyward.
The Pirates came back with a big third inning, but being the Pirates failed to do as much damage they could have done. Crowe and Ke’Bryan Hayes started the inning with doubles, Crowe holding at third on Hayes’ hit. After a walk to Tsutsugo, Bryan Reynolds went to the opposite field for a grand slam, his 22nd bomb of the year. He’s got 81 RBIs on the year with 25 games left. Thanks to two walks and a single, the Pirates loaded the bases again with one out, but Hoy Park grounded into a double play.
The 5-2 lead didn’t last long. Crowe started the bottom of the third with two walks and two singles, leaving the bases loaded with a run in. Duffy, who came into the game with one longball in 229 plate appearances, hit his second for the grand slam and a 7-5 Cubs lead. Crowe ended his day with a 5.94 ERA, which is about what you get in a salary dump trade.
But the Pirates’ major leaguer wasn’t ready to lose yet. In the fifth, Reynolds singled, moved up on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Stallings. The Cubs’ bullpen then cleverly found a way to make the Pirates tie the score, as a hit batsman, two walks and a wild pitch brought in a run to make it 7-7. Another walk loaded the bases back up, but the runners were stranded.
In the sixth, the Pirates took an 8-7 lead. Their major leaguer singled with one out and eventually scored on a single by Stallings. They still had two on with one out, but they left the runners there.
In the seventh, the Pirates’ bullpen put on a show for those Atlantic League scouts. Shea Spitzbarth issued a one-out walk, then gave way to Sam Howard, whose velocity is down several clicks from earlier in the year. Howard faced three batters and retired one for a .333 average, which is pretty darn good. With the bases loaded and the right-handed Frank Schwindel, aka “The Colossus,” up, Derek Shelton went to Nick Mears. The Colossus, who went 10-for-18 in the series, wasn’t intimidated and launched the Cubs’ second grand slam of the game, putting them up, 11-8.
In the eighth, Shelton raided his desperately shorthanded bullpen for his sixth reliever of the game, finding Luis Oviedo stored in a locked closet. Oviedo threw a scoreless eighth, striking out two.
The Pirates raised some hope in the ninth, as their first two batters walked. That gave them nine on the day, to go with ten hits. It also gave them the chance to bring Michael “.144” Perez off the bench instead of Anthony Alford, whose four hits in his last two games made him an inappropriate choice. Perez struck out and two batters later the game was over. The Pirates finished 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, one of their best clutch showings of the year.