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Bucs drop opener to Cubs, 1-0

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In a 1-0 loss to the Cubs, a belt high change up proved to be the difference in today’s ballgame. With one out in the top of the 4th inning, Ivan Nova fell behind Ian Happ with two fastballs outside of the zone. While attempting to change speeds, Nova left the next offering up in the zone and Happ hammered it into the right centerfield seats for what would be the game’s only run.

The Happ home run was the only blemish on what was otherwise a stellar pitching performance by Pittsburgh’s staff. Ivan Nova scattered seven hits (six singles) over 6.2 innings while striking out three before he turned the ball over to Richard Rodriguez.

Rodriguez entered the game with two outs in the 7th inning, Kyle Schwarber standing on second, and Baez stepping up to the plate. Unfazed, Rodriguez struck Baez out on five pitches to end the 7th inning, leaving another inherited runner stranded. He then proceeded to strike out Heyward, Rizzo, and Happ while cruising through the 8th inning before handing the ball over to Filipe Vazquez.

Vazquez pitched an effective 9th inning on 17 pitches to keep the deficit at one run.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the push / pull relationship between an anemic offensive performance and a dominant pitching performance from the opposition was on full display tonight.

Pittsburgh’s offense was only able to manage six base hits - each one of them a single. The closest thing the Pirates had that resembled a scoring threat came in the bottom of the 5th inning when Harrison and Hechavarria hit back to back, two out singles to place runners at the corners for Ivan Nova. Lester was unable to find the strike zone on the first three pitches he offered to Nova but came back to strike him out on eight pitches, ending the scoring opportunity.

Jon Lester was able to shake off a month’s worth of weak outings while delivering six shutout innings and striking out eight. Cishek, Edwards Jr, and Strop all threw scoreless frames to close out the game and secure the Chicago win.

Final score: Cubs 1, Pirates 0

W: Lester (13-5) L: Nova (7-7) SV: Strop (10)

The Pirates and Cubs will do it again tomorrow at the same time. Pittsburgh will be sending Trevor Williams to the hill to face his fellow high school alumnus, Cole Hamels.

Kevin Newman made his major league debut tonight while entering the game in the 9th inning as a defensive substitute. Expect him to take his first hacks during tomorrow’s contest.