The Cubs and Pirates played the rubber match of their three-game series Thursday at Wrigley Field. Despite the wind blowing in, the game was decided by the home run ball and the outcome favored the road team.
Kyle Hendricks allowed a 1st inning homer to Gregory Polanco to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead, but the Professor held it there the next three innings despite not having his best stuff. Kyle Schwarber hit a long solo homer of his own to tie the game at one in the bottom of the 4th.
Hendricks made his other big mistake in 5th inning, allowing a go-ahead dinger to Adam Frazier. The game remained competitive until the 7th, when Bad Justin Wilson made an appearance. By the time the smoke had cleared, the Cubs were down five and the matter was effectively settled. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Lost
Pirates starter Trevor Williams kept the Cubs offense at bay in six strong innings. After Pittsburgh’s bullpen collapsed Wednesday, it was Chicago that saw their relievers falter Thursday.
Francisco Cervelli continued to torture Cubs pitching in this series. In the top of the 7th, he took Justin Wilson just over the left field wall for his second homer in three days. The three-run shot gave the Pirates an insurmountable 6-1 lead.
Stats That Matter
- Hendricks gave up a fair amount of hard contact, but was able to strand some base runners: 6 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 7 K, 3 BB. All three walks were of the intentional variety. On a lot of days, Hendricks would have done enough to get his team a win; Thursday wasn’t one of them.
- Schwarber had a very encouraging game, adding a single and a double to the home run. The best part of it was that the last two hits went to the opposite field.
- Ian Happ also had two hits and didn’t strike out in four at-bats.
- Wilson was simply awful Thursday: 0.2 IP, 4 R, 3 H, 0 K, 3 BB, and 2 HR. Allowing Gregory Polanco’s second homer of the game seemed to unnerve him, and the wheels quickly came off from there. Joe Maddon may have a hard time using him in high-leverage spots, as the chance for a meltdown is just too high.
The Cubs continue their inconsistent play to start the year, reflected in a 6-6 record through 12 games. A solid game seems to be followed by a turkey. Last year it seemed that way the entire first half, so let’s hope Chicago snaps out of it a little earlier in 2018.
The Cubs begin a new series as the Atlanta Braves come to town Friday afternoon. Yu Darvish makes his home debut against the veteran Anibal Sanchez at 1:20pm CT. The game airs on MLB Network (Out of market) and NBC Sports Chicago.