Bryant’s HR in 7th Help End Losing Skid
By Steven S. Garcia
Pittsburgh, PA-(ENEWSPF)- After another crushing 9th inning defeat on Friday, the Cubs (64-58) were looking to snap their four-game losing skid against the Pirates (51-70) in Game 2 of this three-game set at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs are 2-6 thus far on this current road trip and their record away from Wrigley Field fell to 23-39 on the season. They are also 7-23 in away games that are decided by one or two runs.
Following the loss and a Cardinals win in Cincinnati, the Cubs find themselves one game behind the Red Birds in the NL Central standings.
Looking to end the losing streak was Jon Lester (9-8 4.43). His counterpart was fellow left-hander Steven Brault (3-1 4.33).
Lester pitched himself out of a one-out base-loaded jam after allowing singles to Friday’s hero Kevin Newman and Starling Marte, and a walk of slugger Josh Bell. The veteran would get Melky Cabrera and Colin Moran to line out to end the Pittsburgh scoring threat.
Pittsburgh starter Steven Brault was dialed in and did not allow a hit until Addison Russell ended a no-hit bid with a single in the 5th.
Following two walks and a throwing error by Kris Bryant, Lester was forced to pitch himself out of another bases-loaded jam in the 5th. This time, there were no outs and he retired the next three Pirate hitters to escape any damage and keep the game scoreless.
After committing two errors in the game, Kris Bryant got some redemption and ended the scoreless tie in the 7th with a solo home run to left – his 25th of the season – to put the Cubs ahead 1-0.
Despite serving up Bryant’s homerun which proved to be the difference, Pirates’ starter Steven Brault pitched a gem going seven innings, allowing one run on two hits while fanning eight and walking one.
Reliever Tyler Chatwood entered the game after Lester was lifted in the 7th after surrendering a leadoff double to Adam Frazier and walking Pablo Reyes. After hitting Starling Marte to load the bases with two outs, Chatwood got Josh Bell to ground out to Russell at 2nd to end the inning.
Lester’s finished with a final stat line of six innings of shutout ball, giving up four hits while striking out three and walking five on 103 pitches. It was Lester’s 11th quality start of the season and the fourth for the Cubs this week.
The Northsiders added on to their lead in the 8th. After Ian Happ and Jonathan Lucroy led off the inning with back-to-back singles to start the inning, a pickoff attempt at 3rd by catcher Elias Diaz went into leftfield allowing Happ to score and make it a 2-0 ballgame.
In the 9th, Chatwood walked Adam Frazier to begin the frame and Joe Maddon wasted no time and brought in Rowan Wick to try and nail down the final three outs. Wick would get the next three Pittsburgh hitters to groundout to end the game and snap the four-game losing streak. For Wick, it was his first career big league save.
A St. Louis loss in Cincinnati puts the Cubs and Cardinals back into a 1st place tie in the NL Central.
After the game. Jon Lester spoke of the much-needed win by saying, “A challenging day all the way around. But we got it done.”
While on Deck and after already committing two errors in the game Kris Bryant was asked about a heckler poking fun of his defensive miscues. “I don’t really know what he said. But he was making fun of me because I made two errors. And then I hit a home run. That was cool,” said Bryant.
The two teams head to BB&T Ballpark in Williamsport, PA for third and rubber game of this series. The players are pretty excited for this game. Kris Bryant said, “I’ve been looking forward to this since they announced it. I think it’ll kind of put things in perspective, too. We’re going to watch the Little League World Series and hang around the kids and see how happy they are. They’re just playing a game.”
“I do believe our guys will grab some energy from meeting the kids. All of that will be entertaining to all of us,” said manager Joe Maddon.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM with Jose Quintana (10-7 4.11) vs. Mitch Keller (1-1 7.94).
IN CUBS NEWS
- Closer Craig Kimbrel is expected to be activated from the IL on Sunday after a right knee injury had him sidelined since earlier this month.
- Reliever Steve Cishek threw a bullpen session on Saturday with no issues and is likely to return soon.