The Pirates jumped on the Cubs early Thursday night as Gregory Polanco went deep in the first at-bat for Pittsburgh against Cubs’ newcomer, Dan Haren. Pedro Alvarez added an RBI single in the first inning as well to give the Bucs and early 2 -0 lead. Andrew McCutchen homered to center in the third to make it 3 -0 before Anthony Rizzo finally put the Cubs on the board with an RBI-Sac fly in the top of the fourth. Haren was not at his best and is prone to give up the long ball but was able to go more than two innings so it’s progress in that department.
Even after getting down 4 – 1, the Cubs battled back behind Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo’s big bats. Each of the sluggers hit home runs in the sixth inning (Schwarber’s was a two-run shot), to tie up the game and show the Pirates that these Cubs are coming for them. Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen let them down as Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Jason Motte all gave up a run in their respective appearances in the later half of the game, putting the Cubs in a three-run hole, 7 – 4.
The Cubs stuck with it though as the top of ninth saw Starlin Castro single and Matt Szczur double, to put men on second and third with only one out. Addison Russell then grounded out to the shortstop allowing Castro to score from third to tighten up the game, but Dexter Fowler came to the plate as the tying run and struck out swinging to end the threat and the game, 7 – 5. The Cubs win streak was snapped at six.
It’s hard to nitpick the Cubs, who battled fiercely in this one but came up short, especially since they just completed one of the most successful road trips they have had in years. They went 5 – 1 on their stops in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh to up their N.L. leading road record to 31 – 24. Now they need to apply the same tenacity on the road to their home contests as starting tonight the team will be in Chicago until August 23rd, with 13 homes games at Wrigley and 3 “road” contests on the South Side vs. the White Sox. Hopefully, this will lead to a more comfortable and relaxed squad, free from the toll that excessive travel can take on the body. Throw in playing in front of the home crowd who are hungry for a winner and this could be a special opportunity for the Cubs to turn up the heat on their division rivals, something voiced by Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo over the last few days.
“It’s definitely something you circled and highlighted,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been looking forward to it all year, really. It will be nice to be home for that long.”
It all starts tonight against a team the Cubs have been dancing with in the Wild Card Standings for what seems like all season. The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants come to town for a four game set that could see one of these clubs open up a little breathing room in the standings that currently have the Giants a half game ahead of our Cubs. Tonight the Cubs trot out Jason Hammel to square off against the Giants’ Chris Heston. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.
Go Cubs Go!