After a weekend split with the Reds, the Cubs looked to get back on track with a big series victory over the Pirates. Taking care of lesser opponents should be a given for any good team, but the North Siders still needed to take care of business on the diamond against a league-worst Pittsburgh ballclub. Here's how the action unfolded.
- Tuesday, September 1st: Cubs 8, Pirates 7 (F/11)
- Wednesday, September 2nd: Cubs 8, Pirates 2
- Thursday, September 3rd: Pirates 6, Cubs 2
Managerial Decisions Almost Cost Cubs
The opening game was arguably David Ross's worst managed game as Cubs' manager. He made numerous questionable pitching decisions down the stretch of the game and nearly cost the Cubs. However, out of the pen, Colin Rea, Josh Osich, and Jeremy Jeffress bailed out Ross's decision-making.
Game one of the series started off with a bang, literally. To lead off Monday's game, Ian Happ hit a lead-off moonshot to give the visitors the quick 1–0 lead.
The Cubs were able to capture a 3-1 lead by the top of the fourth. A bases-loaded walk by Kipnis scored the Cubs' second run, and another Kipnis single gave the visitors the two-run lead. Pittsburgh answered by scoring on an Adam Frazier groundout.
In the top of the fifth, Bryant got on base before Javier Baez hit a double that ultimately scored the speedy Bryant. Baez ended up at third on the play.
However, that didn't matter, Baez was going to score regardless. On an absolute monster shot, Kyle Schwarber hit his tenth home run of the season to give the Cubs a 6–1 lead.
The bottom of the sixth spelled trouble for the Cubs. The Pirates scored five runs to chase Jon Lester from the game, cutting into the Cubs' comfortable cushion.
The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, forcing the Cubs to reset and send the game to extras. The Cubs and Pirates traded runs in the tenth frame, but in the 11th Ian Happ singled home Nico Hoerner to give the Cubs the lead. Jeffress shut the door in the bottom half of the inning and was the winning pitcher for the Cubs as they took game one, 8-7.
Cubs Rebound with "B-Team"
Game two of the series did not have the same drama as the first. The Cubs scored eight runs again but defeated the Pirates convincingly with an 8-2 score.
Tuesday's game provided many more positives than Monday. Not only did the big bats in the lineup show up, but Kyle Hendricks had his best road start of the season, pitching six innings and striking out six while only walking two and allowing one run.
As mentioned, the big bats produced. Happ continued his efforts, going 2-for-5 with a double, but it was the 2, 3, and 4 hitters who really showed up. With a different look (Contreras batting second, Maybin, Souza, and Bote starting in place of Heyward, Schwarber, and Bryant, respectively, etc.), Willson Contreras went 3-for-5 with a double and two singles while also driving in a run. Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBIs. Javier Baez rebounded, going 1-for-5 with a massive three-run homer to give the Cubs the lead for the rest of the night.
Only three pitchers were required to close out the ballgame after Hendricks. Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, and Duane Underwood allowed a combined one run and sealed the win for the Cubs. Duane Underwood especially has been very good lately, and he has made a case for staying in this bullpen for now.
The win on Wednesday secured a Cubs' series win. This feat was a massive one for the Cubs after splitting the Reds series, as they should have taken three of four from the Reds.
Cubs Sputter in Series Finale
Unfortunately, after two solid outings offensively, the Cubs offense took a massive step back on Thursday. The Cubs scored only two runs despite having the bases loaded at one point.
The biggest scare during Thursday's game was Ian Happ's eye injury. The CF fouled a pitch into the dirt that sprung back up and caught him squarely in the eye. Thankfully, it was revealed after the game that the x-rays came back negative with the official diagnosis being a contusion above the right eye.
The rest of the game wasn't much better. Alec Mills struggled in the finale, allowing four runs in five innings of work. Pitcher Jason Adam also struggled, allowing two unearned runs to the Pirates in his 0.2 innings of work.
The major positive from Thursday's pitching performance was that of Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel recorded a clean eighth inning against the Pirates with two strikeouts. It seems like Kimbrel is much better suited for situations that don't involve closing or saving a game.
What's On Tap Next?
The Cubs have a major weekend ahead against their NL Central rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs and Cardinals will play five games in four days, with Saturday featuring a two-game, seven innings each doubleheader. The Cubs will look to widen their gap in the NL Central.
- Friday, September 4th: Jack Flaherty (2-0, 1.93 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (6-1, 1.47 ERA)
- Saturday, September 5th, Game One: Adam Wainwright (3-0, 2.65 ERA) vs. TBD
- Saturday, September 5th, Game Two: TBD vs. TBD
- Sunday, September 6th: TBD vs. Jon Lester (2-1, 5.11 ERA)
- Monday, September 7th: TBD vs. Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.78 ERA)
For postgame reactions and analysis, be sure to tune in to the Cubs On Tap podcast on all major platforms.