With a good ole fashioned pitchers duel, Pirates scraped out a win against the playoff-bound Chicago Cubs 2-1 tonight at PNC Park in a NL Central divisional battle; all three runs were produced in the first inning.
The Pirates opened the bottom of the first with two straight solo shots, both off of sub-90MPH sinkers, from Adam Frazier (6th) and rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes (4th) to take a 2-1 lead.
Hayes’ HR was recorded by StatCast at 107 MPH, the hardest (successful) hit of the night.
While the pitching wasn’t exactly stellar from either side (despite the low scoring), it was effective when it needed to be. This was especially the case for Pittsburgh, who gave five free passes along with four hits but ended with 9 strikeouts. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was serviceable, going seven innings and allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk.
Williams labored through 5.2 IP (101 total pitches) but managed to keep the Cubs offense at bay, allowing three hits and three walks with one earned run. Williams’ only run allowed was a first inning HR by Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (11th).
The Cubs offense had shots to score but went 0-7 with runners in scoring position and stranding nine runners on base.
The one-two-three hitters in the Pirates lineup each had two hits while catcher Jacob Stallings added a single. Pittsburgh was 0-1 with RISP and stranded four runners on base.
Things got a little hairy for the Pirates in the top of the eighth inning as reliever Chris Stratton walked Kyle Schwarber after striking out Willson Contreras for the first out. Speedster Billy Hamilton pinch ran for Schwarber and stole second base. Stratton closed the inning out by whiffing Jason Heyward with a 94 MPH four-seam fastball, coming back from a 3-1 count.
The Pirates had something going in the bottom of the eighth as Hendricks returned to the mound. With one out, Hendricks gave up back to back singles from Frazier and Hayes; Frazier was thrown out by Hayward trying to reach third on the Hayes single. After Hendricks was replaced by reliever Craig Kimbrel with two outs, Colin Moran (2-4) flew out to Heyward, thereby neutralizing the threat to add insurance runs.
Closer Richard Rodriguez came in to close the game out in the top of the ninth, allowing one hit but striking out three.
The Cubs and Pirates will close out their four-game series tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 EST.