The Pittsburgh Pirates battled back after a rough eighth inning to beat the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the ninth by a score of 3-2. It was an impressive pitcher’s duel in PNC Park, but the Battlin’ Buccos pulled it out in the end, winning their third game out of the last four.
The scoring was scarce all game long, but especially so in the first third of the game. Pirates righty Joe Musgrove faced the minimum through three innings, striking out four Cubs in an impressive showing. Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks matched him, allowing just one hit in that same span.
Big Joe’s dominance continued in the fourth, though he did let up a harmless double. Hendricks faltered just a bit in his half of the fourth, and the Bucs took advantage. Starling Marte hit a one-out single and stole second base during Josh Bell’s at-bat. After Bell flew out, Colin Moran squeaked a ground ball single past Anthony Rizzo to score Marte and take the lead 1-0.
That score would remain all the way until the eighth inning. Musgrove allowed just one isolated double in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings combined, and he struck out four more in that span, raising his total to nine on the night. Hendricks again matched the Pirates hurler, allowing an isolated walk himself, though he didn’t miss nearly as many bats.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Cubs offense woke up a bit. Musgrove got a lineout from Kyle Schwarber to start the inning, but Jonathan Lucroy blooped a single into center. After a mound visit, Ian Happ chopped a full count, seeing eye single into right field, resulting in runners on the corners with one out. Manager Clint Hurdle called upon closer Felipe “Nightmare” Vazquez to attempt to clean up the mess.
After a 100 mph heater outside, second baseman Tony Kemp drove a 98 mph follow-up fastball into the right center field gap, legging out a triple and scoring two in the process. Vazquez walked Jason Heyward after that and induced a ground ball double play to end the inning, but Chicago took advantage, and all of a sudden it was 2-1 Cubbies.
Keone Kela held the score at 2-1 in the top of the ninth, and the Pirates had the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the frame. Adam Frazier lined out to right on a slicing ball to Happ, but rookie Bryan Reynolds hit an infield single to make things interesting. With one out, Marte grounded out to the pitcher, moving Reynolds to second. Cubs manager Joe Maddon made an interesting decision to intentionally walk Josh Bell (the winning run), bringing up Moran. Reliever Brandon Kintzler clearly pitched around the Pirates’ third baseman, and it brought up pinch hitting rookie Cole Tucker.
Tucker was just re-called on Friday after a rough stint in the majors earlier this season. The former first round draft pick worked a tough RBI bases loaded walk on a full count, and the game was tied 2-2. Once again, the Chicago Cubs bullpen blew a lead in the ninth inning. It’s becoming a nightly expectation at this point, especially on the road.
That blown save brought up shortstop Kevin Newman, who worked Kintzler into another full count. Then, just as he had done earlier this year, the impressive rookie knocked a ground ball single into center field, scoring the winning run and walking it off for the Buccos!
The Cubs have now lost four straight games, and this makes two nights in a row that they’ve lost after bringing a lead to the ninth inning. The Bucs will look to keep shaking things up in the NL Central, even if their playoff hopes are long gone. The two teams will square off again at PNC Park tomorrow in a Saturday matinee before they travel to Williamsport, PA for a special Little League World Series Sunday Night Baseball game. First pitch is set for 1:35 pm Eastern. Two lefties will meet, as Steven Brault takes the hill against veteran Jon Lester.