Pirates fall short of sweep, lose to Cubs
Wandy Rodriguez needed a few innings to settle into a groove in his first major league start in nearly 10 months Thursday at PNC Park.
Once he did, he was excellent. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Cubs scored a run in each of the first three innings, and their own offense was too late to catch up. After 26 innings and nine hours of baseball in the first two games of the series, the Cubs avoided the sweep with a 3-2 win that took just two hours, 39 minutes.
“It was a tale of two pitchers but he finished up very efficiently and very strong,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Rodriguez. “It was a good outing and a big confidence booster for him and a momentum builder.”
Momentum was something the Pirates couldn't get on offense in a game that started less than 12 hours after Wednesday's 16-inning, nearly six-hour affair ended.
The Pirates had two singles through the first six innings off Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel (1-0), and one of them belonged to Rodriguez. Hammel, who was making his Cubs debut, lasted into the seventh inning but issued a two-out walk to Neil Walker, and the Cubs turned to reliever James Russell. As the rain started to fall on the crowd of 11,418, pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez doubled to put runners on second and third.
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, who ended Wednesday's game with a walk-off hit, drove in two runs with a single and advanced to second on center fielder Emilio Bonifacio's wild throw to home. But Jordy Mercer flied out to end the rally.
The Pirates had a chance in the eighth after a leadoff single by Jose Tabata, but Starling Marte struck out on a foul bunt, pinch-hitter Josh Harrison struck out, and after Andrew McCutchen walked on four pitches, Pedro Alvarez hit a dribbler back to pitcher Brian Schlitter to end the inning.
Walker hit a leadoff single in the ninth, but Gaby Sanchez popped up a bunt and Tony Sanchez shattered his bat hitting into a double-play to end the game.
Hurdle said the decisions to bunt belonged to Marte and Gaby Sanchez.
“We didn't have a bunt on with two strikes,” Hurdle said. “(Marte) chose to be confident and thought he could pull it off. He came back, and we had a chat.
“I said I'm confident you can get a hit with two strikes or drive a ball in the gap with two strikes. He felt compelled to work that way. We gave it one shot with Gaby, and he didn't get it down. We let him swing away, and he felt compelled to try it again as well.”
Bonifacio continued his torrid start for the Cubs, going 2 for 4 with a double to bring his total in three games to 11 for 16. He singled to start the game, stole a base and scored when the Cubs beat a defensive shift. Mike Olt homered in the second inning and Rodriguez allowed the third run to score in the third in order to turn a double play.
Rodriguez (0-1), who missed most last season with tightness in his left forearm, allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
“I threw in spring training, but here it's different, emotionally,” Rodriguez said. “Everything is different. But everything felt good.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
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