Cubs’ offense quiet in 2-1 series finale loss to the Pirates


Right-hander Jason Hammel allowed just two earned in seven strong innings on Sunday, but the Chicago Cubs’ offense fell short, mustering only one ninth-inning run in a 2-1 series finale loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago (31-42) looked poised to walk off in the bottom of the ninth, but in typical Cubs’ fashion, fell short. Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a bloop single to right field and Starlin Castro followed with a single of his own, putting men on the corners with nobody out. With Luis Valbuena at the plate, a pitch in the dirt bounced away from the catcher, but Castro failed to advance on the play – a move that would come back to haunt the young shortstop.

After Valbuena struck out, Nate Schierholtz grounded a ball to second base. The Pittsburgh second baseman, Josh Harrison, fielded, flipping the ball high to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who was pulled off the bag as Castro slid into second in a bang-bang play. The initial ruling was that Castro was out and after the Cubs’ Ricky Renteria appealed the ruling, it stood, giving Chicago a man at first with two down, trailing 2-1.

That seemed to take the wind out of the Cubs’ sails and a Junior Lake fly ball to right field was the end of the ballgame, allowing Mark Melancon to nail down his 12th save of the season.

Pittsburgh (37-38) tallied both of their runs in the third inning. Travis Snider took the first pitch Hammel threw in the inning and deposited it into the left-center field bleachers for his fourth home run of the season and later in the inning, Josh Harrison hit a line drive off Hammel, with the ball deflecting toward the third base line, allowing Chris Stewart to score from third.

Hammel (6-5, 2.99 ERA) scattered six hits over the seven innings, lowering his season earned run average to 2.99. He walked just one and struck out six in a wasted quality start.

Chicago managed just six base hits on the afternoon, and just two players – Schierholtz and outfielder Chris Coghlan – reached base more than one time. A trio of Chicago relievers tossed two scoreless frames in relief of Hammel and did not allow a base hit.