April 22, 2015
The Cubs face the Pirates in game 3 of a 4 game series. After two lopsided games I am expecting a more closely matched game. Tonight’s starter for the Cubs is Jon Lester (3-0) against A.J. Burnett (no record yet).
Once again the air is heavy and damp, so this will help the pitchers keep the ball in the park. Dexter Fowler is set to lead off for the visitors, wearing the road grey jersey and he hits a shot into left for an opposite field single. That’s a good sign, as Dex has really struggled to start the season. He steals second on a very close play on a 2-1 count.
He was still there with two out when Kris Bryant, who has cooled down a bit hits a fly ball to deep right field that bounced off the wall and he is in with an RBI double. Miguel Montero draws a walk, but Chris Coghlan whiffs to end the inning, but not before Chicago is up 1-0 and appears off to another big evening.
Lester gets a quick inning, but not without a little help. Andrew McCutchen, who has started to get hot since this series began hits a hard smash that Addison Russell makes a diving grab on the one hopper and fires a bullet to Anthony Rizzo at first that just nips the franchise star by a step and the inning ends 1-0 Chicago on top.
Burnett gets the Cubs on a very low number of pitches, and the Buccos bullpen gives a sigh of relief. They have really been put to use and would like to see a starter go deep tonight if possible. The Pirates half of the second started out innocently enough, but Neil Walker then gets a one out single to right, and things looked bleak for Pittsburgh.
Pedro Alvarez then hits a grounder that went right to Starlin Castro at second who makes a good throw to Russell at the bag. Walker knew this would require a hard slide to try and keep them from turning two. Walker jams his foot hard into the bag and is clearly in pain as the Cubs still turn the inning ending double play. The trainer comes out as the televised version of this game goes to a commercial break and we will have an update when we know more. The second inning has ended with the Cubs still clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Nothing happens as the pitchers do take control for a bit. Burnett was using breaking pitches and began piling up strikeouts, and Lester was using pinpoint control to keep the batters at bay. The score was still 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Gregory Polanco, who has quietly had a solid year gets a one out single. McCutchen hits one into center that Fowler can’t get to. Polanco scores and the game is tied at one run each. Lester gets the next two batters to end the inning.
The score was still tied as we entered the eighth inning. Burnett had been lifted for a pinch hitter and Lester was still pitching beautifully for the Cubs. Word from the Pittsburgh clubhouse is that Neil Walker has a minor strain and will miss four games. Josh Harrison will be playing second for the next few days it appears.
Arquimedes Caminero, who has been a workhorse for the Pirates was working his third inning, and was clearly running out of gas. He allows a one out single by Castro and walked Rizzo and the manager has seen enough. Joe Blanton will come in and try to close the inning out. He will be due to bat second in the bottom of the inning, so he can really fire away now. He strikes out Bryant (that’s three straight at bats for him) and Miguel Montero gets his first hit of the night with a grounder just past Kang at third for an RBI. Coughlin pops up to shallow left for the inning ending out, but the Cubs have a lead late in the game.
This is the one very big difference between Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Cubs have good starting pitching, but the Cubs bullpen is very thin, while Pittsburgh boasts a very deep and talented bullpen. So Lester comes out for the eighth inning and does a solid job, allowing just a two out single to Sterling Marte who was stranded at first.
As the Cubs come to bat in the top of the ninth, Antonio Bastardo comes in to keep this close. He does just that by striking out two of the three hitters he faces. Joe Maddon decides to play with fire as the extremely unstable Hector Rondon is called on for the save. This is no guarantee as he has been very hittable this year. He walks McCutchen to start the inning and I am already getting nervous. Jung Ho Kang then strikes out for the first out.
Pedro Alvarez also strikes out and I am thinking “maybe this is where he turns it around”. Unfortunately the only turning around was the score as Cervelli crushes a towering three run homer to win the game on the first pitch. For the Pirates it was a solid all around night. Burnett went 5 innings, and again gets no decision but allowed just 4 hits, walked two and struck out seven. Caminero struck out 5 in 2.1 innings. For Bastardo it was his first win, and the first time this season he has looked good.
Jon Lester also gets no decision, and what a shame. He goes eight innings, allowing just five hits and struck out five, while allowing no walks. For Rondon, it’s another terrible evening. He is now in danger of losing his closer role to Justin Grimm. Hector is now one win, one loss and three saves, but has blown two saves in five tries now. His ERA is just under 11 and his base runners per 9 innings is over 15. This has to change immediately or trouble awaits.
Around the horn
The Mets pounded the Braves 12-1. Yoenis Cespedes went 5-5, 4 RBI, SB (2nd 5 hit game this month)
The Indians beat the White Sox in a close one 4-2. For the Sox, Zach Duke strikes all six hitters faced in relief new record for consecutive K’s
The Tampa Rays appear to be coming out of their early season slump. Kevin Kiermeier went 4-5 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. He is hitting .419 for the year so far. Chris Archer picked up the win and had 10 K’s