Five days ago Joe Musgrove breezed through seven shutout innings in only 67 pitches. Tonight’s first inning couldn’t have looked any more different. While already trailing 1-0, Musgrove walked Willson Contreras and loaded the bases with one out - but then Kyle Schwarber was called out on strikes and Addison Russell went down swinging to end the inning. Still, after 27 pitches in the opening frame, and 40 after two, it didn’t appear that Musgrove’s night would last too long. Instead, that was the only run he’d allow in seven innings of work.
Down a run in the first, Josh Harrison quickly tied the game with a lead off homer to the opposite field, which sailed into the seats above the Clemente Wall in right. Corey Dickerson then led off the second with a triple that Schwarber failed to contain in the left field corner. After Colin Moran struck out, Gregory Polanco lifted a fly to medium center that allowed Dickerson to tag and score.
And that was it. Well, except for a few anxious moments.
In the Pirates’ half of the third Musgrove led off with a ground single to right. When Josh Harrison hit a grounder to third, Musgrove came in late and hard on his slide at second, nearly toppling Javy Baez, who was unable to make a throw to first. As Musgrove jogged to the dugout, Baez had a few words and the benches cleared. No punches were thrown and order was quickly restored, although Elias Diaz was seen to give Musgrove a handshake in the dugout.
The Cubs opened the fourth with a single and a walk, but with the pitcher Kyle Hendricks batting, Musgrove picked Addison Russell off second base. Hendricks then struck out and Albert Almora flew out to end the threat.
The Pirates almost picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth. Josh Bell reached on an infield hit to second base. When Corey Dickerson hit a ground ball to the shortstop Russell he decided to run to the bag at second and while Bell was coming in hard Russell launched the throw to first into the stands, giving Dickerson second on the error. Colin Moran then grounded a single to right, but Jason Heyward’s throw nabbed Dickerson at the plate.
The Pirates tried again in the fifth when Jordy Mercer singled, was sacrificed to second by Musgrove and went to third on Harrison’s single to center, where he continued to second on the throw home. An intentional walk to Austin Meadows loaded the bases, but Francisco Cervelli and Josh Bell both made easy outs to leave them all on base.
Musgrove allowed a pair of hits in the sixth, but came back out for the seventh, walking Kris Bryant with two outs but ending the inning on his 100th pitch as Anthony Rizzo popped up.
Kyle Crick was handed eighth inning duties for the first time and responded with a 1-2-3 inning, capped off by Russell flailing at a slider for strike three.
All that was needed to preserve the 2-1 lead and claim the victory was to hand the ball to Felipe - but Heyward led off with a ground single to right. Ben Zobrist struck out on three pitches and Almora flew to center, leaving it up to Baez - who launched a line drive into and out of the glove of Bell at first base for an infield single and leaving runners at first and second with the former MVP Bryant due up. After fouling off a 1-2 pitch, Bryant bounced to third and was beaten by Moran’s throw to first.
Raise it! (So say we all)
The win puts the Pirates at 29-26, still six games behind the Brewers who had downed the Cardinals.
Tomorrow the Pirates will travel to St. Louis to play those Cardinals at 7:15 pm Eastern, as Trevor Williams faces Jack Flaherty, a rematch of last Saturday’s game.