Pittsburgh Pirates Fail to Retaliate, Lose to the Chicago Cubs Again

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 2-9 in their last 11 games

6. 4. 8. 9. Final

After a 26-17 start to the season the Pittsburgh Pirates were flying sky high. Unfortunately, nothing has gone right since then.

On Tuesday night the Pirates lost to the Chicago Cubs by a score of 8-6. With the loss, the Pirates are now just 2-9 in their last 11 games and 28-26 overall. Once again, the Cubs came into PNC Park, pushed and bullied the Pirates around, and the team did nothing about it.

In the top of the 1st inning Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate with two outs and a man on base. Rizzo should have been hit by a pitch for his dirty home plate slide on Monday. However, the Pirates chose to do nothing and instead Rizzo punked the Pirates yet again by hitting a double.

Luckily, the Cubs would be kept off the board in the 1st.

Facing veteran lefty Jon Lester, the Pirates were able to jump out to an early lead of Tuesday night.

With one out in the bottom of the 1st inning Austin Meadows continued the impressive start to his Major League career by doubling over the head of Chicago center fielder Ian Happ. Starling Marte then doubled into the left field corner to score Meadows. A Josh Bell single would score Marte and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead after an inning of play.

Elias Diaz fell victim to the dirty slide by Rizzo on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday night, Diaz got revenge against the Cubs when he clubbed a solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Diaz’s blast would give the Pirates an early 3-0 lead. This home run also had to make Diaz feel pretty damn good.

The Pirate social media team also threw some shade at Joe Maddon and the Cubs after Maddon said yesterday that kids should learn to slide like Rizzo.

Making his return to the Pirate starting rotation – replacing the injured Ivan Nova – was Nick Kingham. After cruising through the first 4 innings of the game, Kingham ran into trouble in the top of the 5th inning.

With one out in the inning Kingham allowed a base hit to Lester who is one of the worst hitting pitchers in all of baseball. This was followed by Kingham hanging a 0-2 slider to Ben Zobrist that was flicked over the Clemente Wall for a 2-run home run.

Kingham would allow two more base runners in the inning. However, he was able to buckle down and get out of the inning without any further damage being done and the Pirates still leading by a score of 3-2.

Entering Tuesday night’s start Lester had not allowed a home run to a left-handed hitter all season. Well, in the bottom of the 5th inning this changed. The culprit? Austin Meadows.

The 4th home run of Meadows’ career was a 420-foot bomb to right-center field. The solo shot made the score 4-2 Pirates.

Kingham would start the 6th inning for the Pirates but failed to finish it.

After allowing a double to Jason Heyward with two outs, Lester stepped to the plate. Yet again, Kingham would fail to retire Lester who collected his second hit of the night to drive in Heyward. This hit cut the Pirate lead to 4-3 and ended Kingham’s night.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 29: Nick Kingham #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on May 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 29: Nick Kingham #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on May 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Manager Clint Hurdle would then do something I have been calling for him to do for a while now, he used Tyler Glasnow in a high leverage situation. After walking Zobrist, Glasnow would strike out Kyle Schwarber to end the inning preserving the Pirate lead.

In his return to the rotation Kingham pitched a good game on Tuesday night but was burnt by not being able to retire Lester. Kingham allowed 3 runs on 8 hits, a home run, a pair of walks (one of which was intentional), and he struck out 4 in 5 2/3 innings pitched. However, had he been able to retire Lester in his final two bats, odds are, Kingham would have allowed just a single run in 6 full innings of work.

At some point the Pirates needed to retaliate against Rizzo for his slide on Monday. But, this retaliation never came. Instead, facing Edgar Santana in the top of the 7th inning Rizzo would blast a game-tying home run.

Santana would then allow a base hit to Willson Contreras and a double to Happ. Happ’s double scored Contreras to give the Cubs their first lead of the night at 5-4. After a Heyward single made the score 6-4 Cubs, Santana was lifted for Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez would get the final out of the inning.

The struggling Michael Feliz pitched the top of the 8th inning for the Pirates and the batting practice would continue for the Cubs. After allowing a blistering double to Zobrist to start the inning, Schwarber smoked a 2-run home run off of Feliz.

After walking Rizzo and hitting Contreras with a pitch, Feliz would strikeout Javier Baez and get a line out to mercifully end the inning.

After a rough 10 or so game stretch to start the season the Pirate bullpen had been excellent for the better part of two months. Unfortunately, in the past week and a half the bullpen has been a mess as it was on Tuesday night. The recent struggles of the bullpen are a major reason why the team has now lost 9 of their last 11 games.

The lone bright spot for the bullpen that came after the 6th inning was Felipe Vazquez pitching a 1-2-3 top of the 9th inning. This was something Vazquez was in dire need of after failing to hold a lead in each of his previous three outings. Felipe also flashed the best velocity he’s shown in a week or two, hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun in the inning.

In the bottom of the 9th inning the Pirates would make things interesting. Facing Brian Duensing, Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison collected back-to-back hits with one out. Duensing was then lifted for Brandon Morrow.

Meadows greeted Morrow with a nine-pitch at bat that ended in an infield hit to load the bases. Then, Marte delivered with a 2-run single to cut the Chicago lead to 8-6. Morrow would then bare down striking out Bell and getting Corey Dickerson to pop out to shallow left field to end the game.

Dating back to when Chris Coghlan took out Jung Ho Kang with a dirty slide at second base in late September of 2015 and the Pirates failed to retaliate the Cubs have pushed the Pirates around and walked all over them. What has unfolded in the first two games of this series is just the latest example of that. Sooner or later the Pirates need to stand up to the Cubs and defend themselves, or else nothing in the series between these two teams will change.

Next: Colin Moran Needs to Play vs LHP

The third and final game of this series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday. Joe Musgrove will make his second Pirate start while the Cubs plan to send Kyle Hendricks to the mound.