Clutch performances by Vance Worley and Tony Watson overcame another bullpen meltdown as the Pirates outlasted the Cubs, 4-3, to break a two-game losing streak.
Worley took 106 pitches to scramble through five and two-thirds innings, but he allowed only an unearned run. He created some tough situations for himself, but found ways to get through them. A single -- Addison Russell's first career hit -- and a double put runners on second and third with one out in the 3rd, but Worley fanned Jorge Soler and got the incredibly annoying Kris Bryant to fly out. In the 5th, Worley's only two walks loaded the bases with two out to Bryant, but he again flied out. The lone run came on a leadoff double by . . . yes, Bryant, an error by Gregory Polanco and a grounder. Worley fanned six.
The Pirates meanwhile took a 4-1 lead. Francisco Cervelli lined a double high off the Clemente Wall in the 2nd to plate one run. Jung-Ho Kang followed with a sacrifice fly for another. Pedro Alvarez hit his own sac fly in the 3rd after Starling Marte took a pitch off his hand to load the bases. Marte's x-rays, thankfully, were negative. Polanco lined his first HR of the year over the wall in right to account for the final run in the 5th.
Worley came out in favor of Rob Scahill in the 6th with one runner on base. Scahill got a line out to end that inning. Arquimedes Caminero then threw a perfect 7th, fanning two, with his 100-mph (four times) fastball possibly benefiting from a sudden snow squall.
Jared Hughes didn't fare as well in the 8th. He didn't retire any of the four batters he faced, thanks to a combination of wildness, hard-hit singles and a still poorly understood malady known as BABIP's Revenge. With Mark Melancon getting the night off, Tony Watson entered with the score 4-2 and the bases loaded, no doubt knowing he'd be needed for two innings unless the Pirates scored several dozen runs in the next half inning. Watson got through the 8th with only one run scoring on a forceout, although it took a Russell lineout to end the inning. In the 9th, Watson gave up a looping, two-out single to Anthony Rizzo to bring up, naturally, Bryant, but Watson fanned him on a 3-2 pitch.
The Pirates will face the final game of the series tomorrow afternoon with Watson almost certainly unavailable. They'll also have to face their own peculiar 2015 demon, which appears to be their hitters' inability to remember where the strike zone is. They once again drew no walks in this game, while whiffing nine times. Their K/BB ratio now stands at 4.46, worst in the league, after they posted a league-best 2.39 last year.