For the third straight game, Chicago was able to strike the first blow against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The difference last night was they were able to bounce back with a timely home run by first basemen Anthony Rizzo.
But with the Pirates still dueling it out with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place within the division, Pittsburgh jumped on two bad pitches by starter Scott Baker and reliever James Russell to take the third game in this four game set.
Baker, in his second start since Tommy John surgery, pitched five great innings, excluding the slider he threw down the middle of the plate that Jose Tabata crushed to left-center to tie the game at the top of the sixth inning.
The right-hander got two pop flies by second basemen Neil Walker and center-fielder Andrew McCutchen to get out of the inning and end his night. He went six innings, only giving up three hits while striking out four and giving up the home run. Heading into the game, he was set on a 75-85 pitch count limit and he came in right at 75.
But the Cubs were still in the game. In the bottom half of the inning, left-fielder Brian Bogusevic took a lead-off walk on four straight pitches followed by catcher Wellington Castillo hitting a single to left field. Second basemen Darwin Barney came up and laid a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third baseline to move the runners over with only one out.
Dioner Navarro came up to pinch-hit for Baker, but struck out on a fastball straight down the middle after Pittsburgh rookie Garrit Cole had danced around the strike zone with off-speed pitches. Shortstop Starlin Castro came up, but hit into a ground out to end the last Chicago offensive threat on the night.
The Pirates took the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning when reliever James Russell threw a fastball straight down the center of the plate to former Cub Marlon Byrd who took the ball into a frenzied crowd in right-center field.
The teams traded relievers and quick outs after Byrd’s home run until Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon came in and struck out Bogusevic, but put him on after an errant throw allowed him to reach first. But the game was put away when Castillo hit into a game-ending double play.
The Cubs started off the game well with Castro hitting a lead-off single and Rizzo drawing a one out walk. Right-fielder Nate Schierholtz came up and drilled a double, scoring Castro to take the early lead. Rizzo was waved home, but got tagged at the plate for the second out. Center-fielder Ryan Sweeney topped the ball to Cole for a weak ground out to end the threat.
Cole took the win for the Pirates after going seven innings, giving up five hits, three walks, and one earned run, but striking out seven with 101 pitches. Russell takes the loss after only going 2/3 of an inning and giving up the game-winning run.
McCutcheon, who had been strong against the Cubs all year, had a quiet night going 0 for 3 and overall has only gone 3 of 10 in the series with two doubles and a run scored. Third basemen Pedro Alvarez also went 0 for 3 and is also 3 for 10 in the series with the inside the park home run in last night’s game.
Rizzo has returned to offensive form the past two games, going 1 of 3 with a double and walk tonight. Overall, he is 4 of 12 in the series. Bogusevic had a monster night last night, but was quiet except for a walk he took to lead-off the seventh inning.
Chicago looks to split the four game set tomorrow in a left-hander duel as Travis Wood takes on Francisco Liriano. First-pitch is set for 12:35 pm CST.