The Cubs entered Thursday hoping to sweep the first-place Pirates and get themselves right back into the National League Central race. Chicago followed the same formula they used in the previous two games, falling behind early and then storming back against Pittsburgh’s bullpen to take their third game in a row.
The only trouble Cubs starter Marcus Stroman ran into all night Thursday was in the 3rd inning. The Pirates collected three consecutive singles including an RBI hit from Tucupita Marcano that gave the road team a lead, then a run-scoring ground out from Carlos Santana made it 2-0.
Nico Hoerner got a hit off Johan Oviedo, stole second base, and came in to score on a base knock from Ian Happ in the bottom of the frame. Oviedo had to throw a ton of pitches in the first four innings and the Cubs got to him in the bottom of the 5th, as Happ ripped a double to score Hoerner with the tying run.
After a walk to Dansby Swanson, Pittsburgh brought in left-hander Jose Hernandez — not to be confused with the former Cubs and Pirates infielder — to face Cody Bellinger. In his first game back from the injured list, the now-first baseman cracked a go-ahead RBI double down the line in right. Christopher Morel crushed a single deflected off the third baseman’s glove to score a fourth run.
Nick Madrigal brought home a run on a safety squeeze and then Marcano flubbed a grounder at short off of Hoerner’s bat for the fifth and final run of the inning. Happ tripled in the 6th and came home on a sacrifice fly from Morel to puts the Cubs ahead by a comfortable 7-2 margin.
Stroman went six strong and the bullpen had very little stress protecting the lead as the North Siders busted out the brooms for only the second time this season. (Box score)
When Bellinger is playing and is on his game he makes the Cubs lineup much deeper and scarier. He showed that the knee is fine, hustling to turn what should’ve been a single into a that double in the 5th. Having him in the lineup at first with Mike Tauchman in center really stretches things out for David Ross.
Why the Cubs Won
Stroman was great as usual and the lineup was able to ground down another Pirates starter and feast on their suddenly suspect ‘pen.
Stats That Matter
- Another game, another quality start from Stroman: 6 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 5 K, and 2 BB.
- Happ was a home run short of the cycle and also made an incredible diving catch in the 4th.
- Morel is red hot again with three hits and two RBI Thursday.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 16, 2023
The Cubs had given very little reason for optimism the last month-plus of the season. That changed in a big way in this series as Ross and company put a whooping on the first-place Pirates, outscoring them 28-11 in three games. They are very much back in the race and if they keep playing like this they might be in it for a while. A healthy productive Bellinger will make a huge difference in Chicago’s offense.
The Cubs welcome one of the best teams in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, to Wrigley for three games starting Friday at 1:20pm CT. Kyle Hendricks gets the nod after his near no-hitter in San Francisco and takes on Cole Irvin in a contest available on MLB Network (out of market only), Marquee, and 670 The Score