Well, that was exciting. And not in a good way, either.
A dominant pitching performance by Tyler Anderson combined with some prolific offense from unlikely guys brought the Pirates an early edge, and they went into the ninth inning with a 6-2 lead. However, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez provided Bucs fans with uncharacteristic fear as between them, they allowed the Cubs to get within one. Only a groundout by Javier Baez stopped the bleeding and secured a 6-5 Bucs win at Wrigley Field this afternoon.
Anderson gave up only two runs on four hits through eight innings and 101 pitches. Those are not typos. In contrast, Kyle Hendricks got in trouble very early, and the Cubs’ bats were, for the most part, quiet.
Until the ninth. We’ll get to that.
The Bucs got the scoring follies started (I’m sorry) right off the bat. Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman had back-to-back singles, then Hendricks walked Ka’ai Tom. Jacob Stallings grounded out, but that was enough to score Frazier. After Erik Gonzalez flew out, Wilmer Difo singled to drive in Newman and Tom, and the Other Frazier, Todd, singled to advance Difo. Troy Stokes, Jr., in his first MLB at-bat, reached on an error by Cubs shortstop Ildemaro Vargas, which scored Difo. Tyler Anderson whiffed, but when your team scores four runs and you’re the pitcher, it’s kind of okay.
Anderson had a 1-2-3 first but ran into a bit of trouble in the second when he gave up a double to Kris Bryant. Joc Pederson, who replaced Jake Marisnick in center in the first after Marisnick injured himself trying to chase down Difo’s single, hit a single himself that scored Bryant.
The Bucs continued their hitting ways in the third. E-Gon singled, then Difo, of whom I make gentle fun because he uses Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” as his walk-up music at PNC, hit a triple that brought Gonzalez home. In turn, Difo was brought home by a Toddfather single to make it 6-1 Bucs. Yes, really.
The Cubs added another run in the fourth inning, courtesy of a Jason Heyward groundout that brought Bryant across the plate. After that, Anderson was superb. He retired the last 13 batters he faced, and the Pirates entered the bottom of the ninth confident of victory. Kyle Crick came in to finish, and since he’s been outstanding the Bucs’ confidence did not seem to be misplaced.
Until it was.
First, Crick grazed Anthony Rizzo’s thigh, putting him on first. A super wild pitch advanced Rizzo to second. Crick then walked Bryant and got David Bote to fly out, but Derek Shelton and Oscar Marin had seen enough. RichRod had been warming up, and Bucs fans let out a sigh of relief … which turned into a gasp of horror as, after a Nick Martini strikeout, RichRod gave up a single to Pederson, which scored Rizzo. To add to the pain, he dealt a double to Vargas that earned him his first run allowed this year as Pederson and Bryant came home. Fortunately, Baez’s annoyingly lucky bat ran out of gold dust, and the virtual Jolly Roger was raised.
I choose to think of Crick’s and RichRod’s performances (or lack thereof) as an exception rather than a new normal. In the case of Crick, an injury may have played a role, and as awesome as he’s been RichRod was due to get banged around. But Anderson needs full credit here. It’s good to have one reliable starter, and he’s definitely stepped into that role, much to Bucs fans’ surprised delight.