The Pirates came to Chicago on Friday only 2 1⁄2 games behind the first place Cubs, but by Sunday afternoon found themselves 5 1⁄2 back after dropping all three games. On Sunday Trevor Williams, arguably the best pitcher in the Pirates’ starting rotation, watched as the Cubs teed off for three home runs while plating eight runs in total.
Friday’s was a tight game that featured brilliants pitching performances by both the Pirates’ Chris Archer and the Cubs’ Yu Darvish. On Saturday Jordan Lyles got blown out in the first inning, not even able to record three outs.
Come Sunday afternoon, the Cubs struck first on rookie Robel Garcia’s double followed a pair of singles, pushing across one run.
But the Pirates truck back against Jose Quintana, stringing together four hits good for three runs in the top of the third, capped by Jung-ho kang’s ringing double to left center...but that would be the last time the Pirates would score, between a parade of at-em balls and an extremely wide strike zone that saw many questionable strike calls.
The Cubs scored again in the fourth when Robles ripped yet another double, then scored on the pitcher Quintana’s single. But still, it was 3-2 Pirates.
After one out in the fifth, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo singled. Bryant scored when Victor Caratini’s 114 mph liner to center was caught for a sacrifice fly, tying the score, right before Jason Heyward hit his ball at 108 but with a little more loft, slicing through the wind and into the seats for a two-run homer that put the Cubs up 5-3. Not an insurmountable lead.
the Pirates went out 1-2-3 in the six, with Williams left on deck, and with pitches still left on his meter manager Clint Hurdle sent Williams back out for the sixth.
Albert Almora, 109 mph, 423 feet into the left field seats. 6-3. Next batter, Kyle Schwarber. 112 mph, 437 feet to right. 7-3. Javier Baez rolled a slow grounder into left for a single and Williams day was over, after allowing a career high eleven hits. By the time Richard Rodriguez could finish the inning, Baez had scored the eighth run off Williams, driving his ERA up to 5.37.
After the three game sweep, the Pirates find themselves in fourth place, 5 1⁄2 back of the Cubs, with two and a half weeks before the trading deadline, as management tries to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers. Do they distribute prospects around the league in a futile attempt to grab a playoff spot, or do they hold their cards until next year?
The next act will be played out on Monday evening as the Pirates travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in a game at 8:15 p.m. Eastern. The Pirates’ Joe Musgrove (6-7, 4.15) is scheduled to face the Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas (5-9, 4.53).