Cubs fail to provide Rusin run support, fall 3-1 in series opener
The Chicago Cubs were able to strike the first blow against the Pittsburgh Pirates when they capitalized on right-fielder Darnell McDonald‘s ground rule double to take a 1-0 lead. But the Pirates came back two innings later with two runs to take back the advantage and added an insurance run late to take the game for a final score of 3-1.
Left-hander Chris Rusin kept the Cubs in the game by going seven innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with two strikeouts while throwing 79 pitches. For Rusin, it was a game that he has come used to being a part of. Heading into tonight’s match-up, the Chicago offense had backed up the rookie with a combined four runs of support through his previous four starts. Make that statistic now five runs of support in his last five starts.
Rusin was opposed by left-hander Jeff Locke, who had been on a winless streak dating back to July 21, having gone 0-6 in nine starts. He also went seven innings allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out five and only walking one. It became clear early that Locke was not going to have control issues that have come to plague him since the All-Star break. He leads the National League with 78 walks, but only surrendered a walk to catcher Wellington Castillo in the top of the fourth.
After McDonald’s lead-off ground rule double which was a few feet short of a home run, center-fielder Ryan Sweeney and Rusin both grounded out. Shortstop Starlin Castro turned on the seventh pitch he saw, a fastball inside for a single to score McDonald. But the Cubs were only able to muster two hits the rest of the game, both singles.
Pittsburgh was able to take control of the game in the bottom of the fourth frame. After second basemen Josh Harrison began the inning with a ground out, shortstop Jordy Mercer hit a single between Castro and third basemen Donnie Murphy. Center-fielder and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen came up to the plate and hit a 2-0 pitch down the line that hit off the third base to put runners on second and third with one out.
First baseman Justin Morneau came up and put a ball in play that led to a run down on Mercer for the second out. Former Cub Marlon Byrd came up and hit a single up the middle that second basemen Darwin Barney got a glove on, but would have been a difficult play had he come down with it clean. After tying up the game at one all, third basemen Pedro Alvarez came up and hit a single to deep right field to capture the Pirates’ first lead on the night.
Pittsburgh added an insurance run late in the bottom of eighth inning when pinch-hitter Clint Barmes hit a single, followed by Mercer hitting a double off the wall.
McCutchen extended his current hitting streak to 10 games and continued his great year against the Cubbies by going one for two with a double, run scored, and a walk. Coming into tonight’s contest, McCutcheon was hitting .364 with six doubles and six RBIs against Chicago in 2013.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo was finally able to break his hitless streak which had reached a mark of 0 for 17 before a single up the middle during a late rally in the ninth that fell short.
The teams meet again tomorrow at PNC Park with a first-pitch scheduled for 6:05 pm CST.