We've been waiting for the Cubs to start playing like the team expected consistently. Last night the Cubs rallied for 6 runs in the ninth inning to perhaps help turn the tide of the season. The Cubs have had more than one of these supposed turning points, but haven't managed to stay above .500 consistently this season. Tonight left the Cubs waiting for that elusive turning point for at least another game.
Anthony Rizzo hit a two strike single to start the game on base yet again. Ian Happ rolled into a double pay in the next at bat. Ivan Nova struck out Kris Bryant to end the inning. Adam Frazier hit a ball right back to Jake Arrieta to start the Pirates half. Arrieta dropped the ball and then stumbled allowing Frazier to reach base. Francisco Cervelli had a productive out moving Frazier to second, but Gregory Polanco launched a 2 run shot to give the Pirates an early lead. Arrieta and Nova traded zeroes for 3 innings after the first.
Nova retired Jason Heyward and Javier Baez to start the fifth inning, but Nova issued a rare walk to Kyle Schwarber. Jake Arrieta smashed a two run blast to tie the game. Rizzo couldn't keep the line moving with a ground out to end the frame, but it was now a 2-2 ball game. Arrieta got a ground ball down the third base line from Jordy Mercer. The ball ticked off of Bryant's glove into foul territory. That allowed Mercer to reach second to start the fifth inning. Mercer advanced to third on a wild pitch from Arrieta, but Arrieta recovered to strike out Nova at the plate. Frazier was able to punch it through the drawn in infield to give the Pirates the lead again. Frazier advanced on a very wild pitch from Arrieta. The ball flew behind Cervelli at the plate. Cervelli grounded out back to the pitcher. Maddon called for the intentional walk to the hot hitting Polanco. Arrieta hit David Freese in the next plate appearance to load the bases. That would be it for Arrieta who failed to make it through five yet again. Brian Duensing switched Josh Bell around. Bell made solid contact, but Happ made a diving catch to save at least a pair of runs.
Nova pitched a clean sixth. The Pirates extended the lead as Andrew McCutchen pounced on the first pitch from Justin Grimm. McCutchen launched a solo shot to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead. Grimm would retire the next three batters. Addison Russell returned the favor in the top of the seventh. Russell's home run made it a 4-3 game. Jason Heyward singled and was sacrificed to second by Baez. Kyle Schwarber hit a ground ball to advance Heyward to third base. Jon Jay was the pinch hitter against Nova. Jay was ahead in the count 3-0, but Nova threw three straight strikes to retire Jay.
Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a scoreless eighth inning. The Cubs got a one out double from Ian Happ followed by a Kris Bryant walk. Albert Almora smoked a ball coming off the bench facing new reliever Felipe Rivero, but right at Polanco for the second out. Addison Russell grounded out to end the threat. Pedro Strop worked around a one out ground rule double by Josh Bell to keep the Pirates to a 4-3 lead. Rivero went back out there for ninth inning. Heyward stung the firt pitch but Rivero reached out to grab it for the first out. Rivero struck out Baez, and Contreras hit a grounder right back to Rivero to end the game. The Cubs will have to wait at least another night before starting now.
Rickey Rizzo reached base another couple of times tonight. He lead off the game reaching base for the fourth straight game. He didn't come close to another home run, but Rizzo has been on a tear even prior to the lineup shakeup. Heading into tonight's game Rizzo was slashing .372/.500/.698 since June 4. The extra couple of hits should raise those numbers slightly more as at least one Cubs hitter remains hot.
Another Short Jake Day
Arrieta was going to be the story of the game. He was hit hard by Polanco twice, but really was a victim of sequencing as well with his error leading to an extra run. Arrieta found a groove after the Polanco blast and managed to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings. In the top of the fifth inning he sparked the Cubs offense with a two out home run. He then went back out there and just lost his feeling for pitches again. He spiked a wild pitch, and then lost the grip on a breaking ball as it flew behind Cervelli. The Freese hit by pitch ended his night early again. It will be interesting to hear if the finger was bothering Arrieta again in those middle innings because he was cruising up until that point.
The bullpen has been one of the bright spots for the Cubs all season. There have been a few momentary blips from each reliever, but as a unit it has been one of the few strengths of the 2017 Cubs. Today it was more of the same solid work. Justin Grimm hung a curveball to Andrew McCutchen for the only blemish from the Cubs relievers. They were helped by some nice defensive plays in the outfield. Happ's diving catch saved a couple of runs. An inning later Jason Heyward would make an even more impressive catch sliding towards the wall in foul right field. Carl Edwards Jr. also got a pretty double play from the Cubs middle infield duo of Baez and Russell. It is perhaps a small silver lining given the play overall, but it is there.
The Cubs stubbed their toe again in falling below .500 once again. Here is to hoping John Lackey can say now for real tomorrow.
Second Star-Gregory Polanco (2-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Polanco had gone weeks since his last extra base hit. He nearly had two home runs in his first two at bats. He had to settle for a double high off the 21 foot wall in right in his second at bat. As it was Polanco had his fifth to get the Pirates on the board.
First Star-Ivan Nova (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K)
Nova worked quickly and efficiently most of the night. The Cubs got two home runs off the Pirates most consistent starter, and that was it. Nova made a key pitch to end the seventh inning with a lead. That was an important strike out given the Pirates bullpen woes.