The Cubs looked to pick themselves up after one of the more soul crushing losses in recent memory, as they kicked off a three-game set Friday night against the Pirates at PNC Park. Starter Kyle Hendricks had a nice bounce back outing, coming off of his worst start of the season last Saturday. The Professor gave up just one run on three hits over seven innings. His only blemish came in the 4th inning. Colin Moran plated Starling Marte with a two-out single to put the Pirates up 1-0.
The problem for most of the night was that Pirates starter Joe Musgrove was just a little bit better. He struck out nine Cubs over 7.1 innings, while scattering just four hits. Thankfully, he exited after giving up singles in the 8th inning to Jonathan Lucroy and Ian Happ. That set the stage for Tony Kemp, who drove in both men with a triple off of Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez, that put the Cubs on top 2-1.
Things went off the rails in the 9th. Brandon Kintlzer came on with one out and a man on first, hoping to close things out. He induced a groundout from Marte, before intentionally walking Josh Bell, who represented the winning run. Kintzler walked the next two men, the latter of which plated the tying run. That set the stage for Kevin Newman to deliver a walk-off single, sending the Cubs to their fourth straight loss. (Box Score)
Why the Cubs Lost
The bullpen spoiled another stellar starting pitching effort. The Cubs even turned in a rare timely hit, which felt like a monkey-off-the-back moment. You can only blame injuries so much. The bullpen simply has to perform better if this team has any hope of winning the Central, let alone making noise in the postseason.
The decision to walk Bell may have been a bit unconventional, but one could argue it was the right move. Obviously it didn’t work out, as the Cubs’ got walked off for the second night in a row.
Stats that Matter
- Hendricks has given up two earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts dating back to July 2.
- With tonight’s loss, the Cubs are 7-22 in games decided by 1 or 2 runs on the road (credit Len Kasper and the WGN telecast for this nugget).
St. Louis beat Cincinnati Friday night, and thus the Cubs find themselves in sole possession of second place in the NL Central, a game behind the Cardinals. Friday night’s loss ensures the Cubs will endure another losing road trip.
The same two teams square off Saturday afternoon as Jon Lester lines up against fellow lefty Steven Brault. First pitch is at 12:35 CT and ABC has the television feed while 670 the Score has the radio coverage.