Pirates' miscues and mental errors stack up as Cubs win again
CHICAGO — Seated in the cramped Wrigley Field visiting managers office, Clint Hurdle was asked to assess the Pirates' 6-2 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday.
Hurdle could have expanded on any one of many poor performances. Instead, he summarized the events as succinctly as possible.
“It felt like more than six to two,” Hurdle said.
The normally accurate Josh Harrison threw a ball into the first-base stands from third in the third. Starlin Castro reached and later scored.
The typically sure-handed Jordy Mercer fumbled a Castro groundball in the second. Castro later came around to score.
Corey Hart made a throwing error and a mental error, getting tagged out after trying to return to third base at a leisurely pace following a wide turn.
Jeff Locke, a former All-Star who walked fewer than one per nine in the first half last season, fell behind often and allowed 11 baserunners.
The Pirates hit as though they had never faced a left-handed starter this season. It's true Travis Wood is the only left-handed starter the Pirates have faced, meeting him for a second time this season Tuesday. He allowed two runs in seven innings, striking out nine and walking none.
“They out-executed us across the board,” Hurdle said. “We weren't able to get in control of any aspect of the game. … I continue to say the game is contagious, and we've had some contagion on the other side.”
Locke began the season with back-to-back quality starts, walking just one over 14 innings. But he has been unable to locate consistently in his last two outings, walking six.
After the Pirates trimmed the lead to 4-2 in the fourth inning, Locke gave away any momentum.
Dexter Fowler singled with one out. Locke then walked Anthony Rizzo. After a fielder's choice, Locke made a mistake over the inner part of the plate that Kris Bryant lined into left to score Rizzo.
That was it for Locke, who allowed and six runs — five earned — in 3 2⁄3 innings.
“We fell behind some guys,” Locke said. “They are a very aggressive offense, and I just missed some spots.”
Locke struggled on the mound, and Francisco Cervelli struggled behind the plate.
In the fourth, the Cubs executed two double steals successfully. Fowler and Rizzo advanced to third and second, respectively, and later in the inning Bryant and Castro advanced. It was the first time the Cubs had stolen four bases in an inning since Aug. 23, 1997, against the Montreal Expos.
Cervelli has thrown out 3 of 21 base stealers this season (15 percent). The league average is 28 percent.
The lone highlight belonged to Starling Marte, who has struggled this season but has hit left-handed pitching. Marte slammed a Wood fastball into the basket above the left-field fence for his sixth home run. Four of Marte's six homers have come against lefties.
The homer scored Andrew McCutchen, who reached on an infield single. McCutchen went 1 for 4 to raise his average to .179, but McCutchen's three other batted balls were better hit, including a flyout to the center field warning track.
“Aggressive swings. He ran down the line,” Hurdle said. “He pounded that ball to center field. Andrew looked much better tonight.”
That was the only silver lining Hurdle could find Tuesday night.