PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 8: Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs slides safe into second against Brock Holt #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 8, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
You'd hate to say, in early September, that one loss on one particular day ended a team's season, because a baseball season is long, and full of twists and turns. And fortunately, today, I won't have to. But that's only because of the Cardinals' and Dodgers' failure to pull away from a sputtering Pirates team whose 4-3 loss against the Cubs tonight guarantees that it can win at best three games in two series against perhaps the worst teams in baseball. The Pirates had a great opportunity this week, particularly given the way the Cardinals have played, and they didn't take advantage of it.
The Pirates got off to a good start, at least. In the first, Brock Holt led off with a single, and Jeff Samardzija hit Andrew McCutchen. Garrett Jones then walked to load the bases, and Pedro Alvarez drove in two runners by reaching down to dump a single into right. James McDonald gave up a line-drive solo homer to Alfonso Soriano in the second, though, and the Cubs tied the game with a run-scoring double play in the third. Chicago then took the lead in the fifth when Tony Campana hit a ground-rule double, stole third (hey, against the Pirates, why not?), and came home on a sacrifice fly. McDonald left the game with two outs in the sixth, having given up three runs with two strikeouts and two walks.
The Pirates tied it in the seventh. Rod Barajas got to second after a throwing error by Starlin Castro. Josh Harrison, who'd come in to pinch-run, then scored when Jeff Clement hit a long single off the Clemente Wall. In the eighth, though, Jason Grilli allowed a single and a walk, and then made a mistake on a breaking ball to David DeJesus, who brought home the go-ahead run with a single to right. The Cubs left Samardzija, who would finish with nine strikeouts, to pitch the eighth and ninth, and the Pirates went down without much of a fight.