The Cubs played “at” the Pirates in a neutral-site game at the Little League Classic in Williamsport, PA. Both teams wore special uniforms with their Player’s Weekend nicknames and commemorative patches, but it was the Cubs who took advantage of the outfield wall to knock in the runs necessary to fly the W. At least proverbially.
Scoring opened in the top of the 1st, with Nicholas Castellanos knocking yet another solo home run. The top of the order continued to do damage with Jason Heyward‘s home run in the top of the 3rd to put the Cubs up 2-0.
Then Anthony Rizzo drew a walk and Javy Báez hit a double in the 4th to set the stage for Kyle Schwarber to drive them home on a single. Sure, he was later caught stealing second, but the Cubs were up 4-0.
Kris Bryant extended the lead with an RBI double to bring home Heyward in the 5th, chasing Pirates starter Mitch Keller from the game. Rizzo extended the lead with a huge homer, his second in four days, to score Bryant and put the Cubs up 7-0.
The Pirates mounted a brief spate of offense in the bottom of the 9th, with Starling Marte homering off Craig Kimbrel‘s first pitch. With two strikeouts and 12 strikes on 15 pitches, Joe Maddon brought in Pedro Strop to close out the W. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
How do you explain a team winning at the end of a dismal road trip? Maybe it was the neutral location, the commemorative uniforms, or the afternoon spent decompressing, but the team seemed to be in sync in a way it hasn’t been on the road recently.
Cubs starter José Quintana pitched 7 shutout innings for a quality start the team desperately needed. Q controlled the baserunners and pushed the advantage for the Cubs, who made the most of the Pirates’ young starter.
Javy made the most of Sunday Night baseball to dazzle viewers with defensive play while going 2-for-4 with a run.
Kimbrel and Strop are coming off of recent IL trips, so expectations should be tempered. But the bottom of the 9th didn’t do great things for fans’ blood pressure and the bullpen needs to live up to expectations sooner rather than later.
Stats that Matter
- Bryant is in a hitting groove (.318/.412/.614 since August 5), but not so much in the field. His 2nd inning error marks his third in two days.
- Quintana struck out 7 over 7 innings and gave up no runs on 5 hits.
- Rizzo’s homer was his second in four days, which is as many as he had hit from June 16 to August 14.
After a lackluster road trip, the Cubs enjoyed the showcase game. An off day followed by two series at home should keep that enjoyment going for team and fans alike.
The Cubs are off Monday as they head back to Wrigley. After that, they kick off a six-game homestand against the Giants at 7:05pm CT Tuesday. Cole Hamels (6-4, 3.69 ERA) takes the mound against RHP Tyler Beede (3-7, 5.77 ERA) and you can catch the action on NBC Sports+ and on 670 The Score.