Before getting to the recap, a moment to acknowledge the sad news of former Cub, and a number of other clubs, pitcher Scott Sanderson. The right handed pitcher was a part of the Cubs first two division winners in 1984 and 1989 during his 19 year career, and had long made the Chicagoland area his home. Sanderson was a bit before my time in terms of his Cubs career, though I do vividly recall the 1988 Topps card I had of his. Thoughts and condolences to his family suffering a tremendous loss.
The Cubs game began a half hour earlier than scheduled, and the game moved briskly with both José Quintana and Joe Musgrove trading zeroes for most of the evening. It still wasn't enough as the game was delayed after seven innings. The Cubs managed to grab a lead right before the delay and the bullpen continued its scoreless streak (on the technicality of Kyle Ryan allowed Yu Darvish's final two runners to score last night). And Q looked the pitcher Theo Epstein traded for tonight. It wasn't the first time, but it certainly hasn't been frequent enough.
The game produced a number of firsts for the Cubs in 2019. Quintana became the first Cubs pitcher to record an out in the seventh in 2019 and the first to complete at least seven innings. The Cubs won their first series. Pedro Strop recorded the first Cubs save of 2019. Hopefully it won't take nearly as long for the second of each of those events to occur again.
José Quintana pitched a brilliant inning to start the game punching out all three batters he faced. He continued to roll through a second scoreless frame despite walking Josh Bell, but Bell remained firmly planted at first base as Q retired the next three batters. Quintana was rolling as he struck out his counterpart, but the ball bounced past Victor Caratini allowing Joe Musgrove to reach first. Adam Frazier dumped a single into centerfield to quickly turn two outs no on into runners on the corner with one out. Q climbed the ladder to punch out Starling Marte for the key second out of the inning. And in what seems like a rarity since Quintana has moved to the Northside of town, Pablo Reyes grounded out to end the threat.
The problem for the Cubs was that Joe Musgrove as even better through the early frames. Musgrove set the first seven batters down before the Victory Carrot ripped a double off the brick wall. Caratini would remain stuck at second as Musgrove retired another six batters in a row to cruise through four scoreless frames.
Q allowed a batter to reach in the fourth and fifth innings, but kept putting zeroes on the board. The Pirates didn't have another runner in scoring position against Quintana the rest of the night. Quintana struck out nine through six scoreless innings.
The Cubs managed to put a second scoring chance together against Musgrove in the fifth inning. Kyle Schwarber struck out for the second time to start the frame, but Jason Heyward drew a walk. Daniel Descalso floated a single in front of Melky Cabrera. Heyward was forced to stop at second as Cabrera was right there on the soft single. Victor Caratini struck out after working a 3-1 count. A low strike call on the 3-1 pitch resulted in Joe Maddon being tossed after he argued Caratini's case. The pitch looked good enough on the TV strike zone and certainly had been called consistently by the home plate ump all night. Caratini couldn't hold up another slider and then Quintana grounded out to end the rally.
Ben Zobrist singled to start the inning for the Cubs first batter to reach leading off a frame. Kris Bryant drew a walk to give the Cubs their first runner in scoring position with no outs. Anthony Rizzo bounced a ball to the second baseman that Kris Bryant somehow avoided being tagged by as he flew by. Rizzo was thrown out at first, but the Cubs were in business. Javier Báez hit a weak grounder down the third base line. Zobrist was running on contact and was easily thrown out at home. Báez felt that the ball bounced off his foot and didn't run out of the box. He was tagged and the inning was over bizarrely.
The rain opened up in the seventh inning with Quintana dealing. Q struck out another two batters for eleven punchouts on the night. The rain slowed and a Cubs starter was through seven innings for the first time this season. The Cubs bats were helped by the Pirates fielders. Jason Heyward hit a pop up that should have been caught in shallow left field, but the third baseman and shortstop both attempted to make the catch. The ball dropped and Jason Heyward was standing on second base with just one out. Daniel Descalso would make the Buccos pay with a soft single into left field. Heyward glided around the bases for the first tally of the game. That ended Musgrove's night with an unearned run scoring.
The Pirates went to a familiar foe in Francisco Liriano to face Caratini. The Victory Carrot ripped his second double of the night to drive in Descalso. That added an earned run to Musgrove's ledger and extended the Cubs lead to 2-0. David Bote pinch hit for Quintana as Mark Loretta opted to try to break the game open late. He drew a walk but Zobrist flew out for the second out. Kris Bryant struck out swinging to end the frame. Lightning started and the game went into a rain delay before the eighth inning.
The game restarted at around 10:00 with Steve Cishek on the mound. Cishek made quick work of the first two Pirates he faced. Starling Marte doubled, and that brought Francisco Cervelli to the plate. I'll admit to being a touch nervous whenever that particular catcher enters the batter's box and doubly so when it is a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Cervelli hit an easy flyball to Albert Almora Jr. and I could exhale.
The Cubs went quietly in the bottom of the eighth and that gave Pedro Strop a rare save opportunity in 2019. Strop provided a stress free 1-2-3 inning and the Cubs won a series. Tomorrow they can go for their first back to back wins of 2019.
Joe Maddon got tossed from the game but the argument between him and the home plate umpire felt about as heated as this exchange.