Chicago Cubs rookies Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara both hit solo home runs in a 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates (78-69) on Friday night. With the loss, the Cubs fall to 4-13 against Pittsburgh this season – by far the club’s worst mark against a single opponent.
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Baez took Pirates starter Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.92 ERA) deep to left field on a slider that hung over inside part of the plate, bringing the Cubs within one during the top of the fourth, 2-1. The long-ball was the rookie’s eighth of the season and his first since Aug. 18 against the Mets at Citi Field. Pittsburgh scored lone runs during the second, third and fourth innings off Chicago left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada before he was pulled during the bottom of the fourth.
Wada (4-3, 3.34 ERA) lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Friday, allowing four earned on nine hits, walking two and striking out a pair. The southpaw’s last outing against the Pirates was also short – he lasted just 3 1/3 innings before leaving with leg cramping. Right-hander Justin Grimm took over on the mound in relief of Wada, pitching one inning and allowing two earned runs on three hits. The long-ball wasn’t a factor in the loss, but the Bucs picked apart this struggling pitching staff for 14 hits on the night.
Alcantara’s solo blast came during the top of the fifth inning, his ninth home run of the season. It was hardly an uneventful home run, as Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle thought a fan interfered with the play and challenged the call. The umpire crew only took a total of about 45 seconds to review the play before ruling that Alcantara’s long-ball cleared the fence in right field. It was his first multi-hit game since Aug. 24 against the Baltimore Orioles.
In the top of the sixth, catcher Welington Castillo brought the Cubs within a run, lining a single to to center field making it a 4-3 ballgame. Chicago had the bases loaded just a couple batters later, but were unable to close the gap with Alcantara up at the plate, who got under a pitch and popped it up in foul territory where catcher Chris Stewart recorded the third out. Stewart himself plated the first run of the ballgame during the bottom of the second inning on a single to center field.
First baseman Mike Olt led off the top of the ninth inning with his sixth double of the season, bringing up Alcantara. However, former Milwaukee Brewers closer and current Pittsburgh reliever John Axford retired the rookie on strikes for the first out of the inning. Logan Watkins was then retired on a 1-3 putout on a bunt and Matt Szczur struck out swinging – sending the Cubs to a seventh-straight loss.
Baez, Alcantara, and Castillo would combine to go 5-for-12 with three RBIs, two home runs, three strikeouts, while leaving five men on base. It’s also worth noting that Jorge Soler missed Friday’s game due to the birth of his first child back in Miami, Fla. The slugging rookie outfielder is expected to rejoin the team before the end of the weekend.
The series between these two division rivals will see Felix Doubront (1-1, 5.43 ERA) going up against Jeff Locke (7-4, 3.60 ERA) with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT on Saturday night at PNC Park.