Beyond the Box Score: Cubs at Pirates 4/2/2014


If you missed game two of the 2014 season on Wednesday or did not have the energy to stay up past midnight to watch 16 innings of baseball on a weeknight, here are a few things the box score is not going to tell you over breakfast or on your morning commute to work.

Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton plunked Anthony Rizzo with the first pitch of the top of the second. This came after Edwin Jackson beaned Starling Marte in the arm in the bottom of the first. Both benches were in turn warned, but it remains unclear why Morton or the home team would have felt that Jackson’s errant pitch was an intentional one.

Apr 2, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the twelfth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 4-3 in fifteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the third inning, Emilio Bonifacio ranged into shallow right field, made a nice sliding stop, and popped up with an accurate throw to first to rob a single. I have been touting Darwin Barney‘s under appreciated role on the Cubs, but if Bonifacio continues to display solid levels of defense to go with his hot start at the plate, the edge for playing time goes to the minor league signing from this past off-season.

Jackson kicked off his 2014 season displaying bouts of control issues much like Cubs fans saw last year. This is displayed by the four walks you see in the box score. However, on the flip side, Jackson only allowed two hits in his five plus innings of work while striking out five. This was thanks to his lively fastball that he kept in the mid 90’s throughout. Apparently his focus on it to start the Cactus League has paid some dividends.

The Cubs finally scored their first run of the season in the top of the eighth inning. What you do not see in the box score is that it came after what originally was called by the umpires as an inning ending double play. Manager Rick Renteria came out to argue that a bad throw had pulled the Pirate shortstop off of second base, thus allowing the judges to go to the replay monitor. Upon review the umps agreed with Renteria and the resulting safe call at second would mean the run that had come home counted. Leave it to this anemic Cubs offense to find this quirky way to finally score a run.

Rizzo gave the Cubs their first lead of 2014 with a no doubt home run into the right field seats in the top of the 12th inning. After seeing seven change ups during the at bat, the Cubs first baseman unloaded on the inside sinker that Jeanmar Gomez was trying to jam him with.

Cubs fans who either stuck around to watch Jose Veras pitch or see the recap tomorrow will look at the closer’s stat line and think Carlos Marmol. While the two walks and blown save on your first day on the job will do little to distance one’s self from the former beleaguered Cubs reliever, it was Veras’ unsettled body language on the mound that will have North Side fans thinking Marmol as well. As Veras struggled to find his command, he was seen fiddling with his cap and muttering to himself. At one point he even managed to completely flip his hat off his head before catching it and putting it back on. Definitely not a very confident first impression from the newly inked Cubs closer.

In the bottom of the 13th, the Cubs found themselves in a desperate situation with the bags full of Pirates and no outs. Manager Renteria pulled Junior Lake in from left to represent a fifth infielder, positioning the outfielder at third base. Lake even swapped out his outfielder’s glove for an infielder’s one during the pause to set the defense. The move turned out to be a stroke of genius as Clint Barmes would one hop the ball right at Lake. The former Cub infield prospect made a nice play on the short hop and made a calm throw to home for the first out before catcher Welington Castillo fired the ball to first base to complete your routine 7-2-3 double play. The Cubs would eventually get out of the inning thanks to this bit of luck.

Unfortunately all of the positive efforts above were for naught, as the Cubs eventually fell to the Pirates in 16 frames for their second straight extra inning loss. That is all I have for you today beyond the box score.