Siri what is the worst possible way to lose four in a row?
The first sixteen hitters in this one were set down in order in three and half innings that made Rob Manfred smile. The Pirates were the first to reach base with a one out Jacob Stallings single in the bottom of the third. Kris Bryant provided the Cubs first base knock with a two out single in the fourth inning, but neither offense looked poised to do much against the starters Joe Musgrove and Kyle Hendricks.
The bottom of the fourth saw the only multi-hit inning of the game. Starling Marte reached on a one out single against the Professor. He stole second in the next plate appearance. Josh Bell flew out to center for the second out, but Colin Moran got on top of a high sinker to hit one through the infield and score Marte. That one run would be enough as the Cubs and Pirates continued to play a game more reminiscent of 1919 than 2019.
The Cubs threatened in the fifth inning with a Javier Báez doubled to lead off the fifth inning. It was a hustle double that blooped in front of Melky Cabrera more than a ball crushed. Kyle Schwarber struck out for the first out swinging, and then Lucroy popped an early pitch up on the infield for the second out. Kyle Hendricks struck out swinging with Musgrove working out of the zone the entire at bat.
Hendricks and Musgrove then kept hitters off balance the whole night. Hendricks allowed two baserunners but faced the minimum from the fifth inning through the seventh inning thanks to a pair of twin killings. The Cubs could not reach against Musgrove as Major League Baseball apparently removed the super happy fun ball with a deadball.
Jonathan Lucroy hit a floater into shallow left center which broke Musgrove's streak of retired batters at ten in the top of the eighth inning. Hendricks was lifted for a pinch hitter in Ian Happ. The count was worked full before Happ rolled a single back up the middle to move Lucroy to third. Felipe Vázquez was summoned to slam the door. Tony Kemp looked at a 100 mph fastball outside and then turned on a 98 mph into the right center gap. The big outfield at PNC allowed Happ to race around from first to score easily. Kemp reached third on the play. Vázquez walked Jason Heyward, but Castellanos bounced into an inning ending double play.
The nerves then began in earnest with the bullpen trusted with the slimmest of margins 2-1. David Phelps retired Kevin Newman on one pitch to start the bottom of the eighth. He then blew a high 95 mph fast past Jacob Stallings on a 3-2 count for the second out. Pablo Reyes worked a full count but also couldn't hold up on a 3-2 pitch outside of the zone for yet another clean inning thrown on the night.
Keone Kela worked around a one out walk to Anthony Rizzo to post yet another zero on the board. That meant the Cubs were again three outs away from a win. Kyle Ryan was called upon to face the lefties at the top of the Pirates lineup. Adam Frazier hit a ball hard, but Ian Happ was right there in right field for the first out. Then it was deja vu all over again when David Bote wasn't able to handle a bouncer down the third base line off the bat of Bryan Reynolds. In fairness to Bote McBoteface it was a much tougher play than last night, but here we go again was certainly the vibe following Reynolds' base hit.
Brandon Kintzler entered the fire right away off the IL facing Starling Marte. The former closer had to work for it but induced a ground ball from the anxious Marte. Unfortunately Kintzler only had a play at first to advance Reynolds into scoring position. The Cubs elected to put Josh Bell on and take their chances against Colin Moran. The move was the right call even with Moran providing the earlier Pirates tally, but Kintzler lost the zone to load the bases with two outs. Recently recalled Cole Tucker was the Pirates final hope. Tucker fouled two pitches off to bring the Pirates down to their final strike, but Kintzler wasn't able to get a chase on the next two offerings. Tucker fouled a pitch off before Kintzler misfired badly to tie the game. Kintzler again worked ahead quickly against Newman but once again struggled to finish off the batter. Newman rolled a base hit through the infield to crush the Cubs back to back nights.