Thursday night wasn’t the first time the Pirates have lost a walk-off to the Cubs on a routine pop fly and this most recent play wasn’t even Pittsburgh’s worst against the Cubs this season. This latest gaffe lacked the unadulterated hilarity of Gregory Polanco forgetting how to walk as a Matt Szczur blooper fell safely to get a win back on May 15, 2015, but it was close.
I won’t share the Will Craig blunder from earlier this season, the one where he completely blanked out on how to play baseball and allowed Javier Báez to “steal” first base, but that was wild. In this case, it looked like the Cubs were going to have two outs with one more chance to walk it off after Ian Happ popped harmlessly to second base.
However, Wilmer Difo was pinching up the middle for a potential double play and overpursued the ball as a result, allowing it to fall harmlessly to the dirt. Sergio Alcántara was able to trot home to secure the Cubs’ third win in a row.
— Miguel Esparza (@Miguelsvoice) September 3, 2021
“I did not envision my first walk-off looking like that,” Happ said after the game.
Rather than actually making good on the idea of this post and providing an actual recap, I’m just going to move on to the other segments. Besides, the ending is all you really need to know about what happened anyway.
Why the Cubs Won
While the Pirates’ general ineptitude played a big role, it was the bullpen that stepped up in this one. Starter Keegan Thompson lasted less than two innings, allowing three runs on four hits as he labored through 54 pitches. Adrian Sampson then came on in relief and recorded 10 outs without giving up a hit or a walk, needing just 32 pitches to cruise through the 5th inning.
Then came Scott Effross, who carved up the Pirates for two perfect innings with four strikeouts and a pair of groundouts. Rowan Wick ran into trouble and ended up with a blown save when a pair of singles and catcher interference set the stage for a two-run knock that tied the game.
See gif and video above.
Stats that Matter
- Thompson had another very rough start: 1.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K
- Effross led the Cubs with 4 Ks and now has 5 in 2.2 IP
- Alcántara was 3-for-4, the first three-hit game of his career
- Happ had two hits in addition to that error, raising his average to .202
It helps that they’re playing very bad teams, but the Cubs look like they’re starting to figure some things out. Everyone in the starting lineup other than Jason Heyward had a hit in this one and the bullpen has some pitchers who could be really good for a long time.