The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to salvage one game of their three-game weekend series at Wrigley Field on Sunday
Entering play on Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates had lost 16 of their previous 21 games. This slide had caused the team’s record to fall to 31-33 on the season. They were also looking to avoid being swept by the Chicago Cubs.
Following a 7-1 victory, the Pirates were able to avoid being swept by the Cubs this weekend. This victory also improved their record to 32-33 this season, getting them back to within one game of the .500 mark.
Arguably the best part of Sunday’s victory was seeing multiple struggling players have a strong game for the Pirates. Hopefully, this can prove to be the start of at least some of these players starting to head back in the right direction.
Josh Harrison battled Chicago starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks to the tune of an eight-pitch at bat to start the game. On pitch number eight, Harrison his seventh career leadoff home run. Harrison’s third home run of the season gave the Pirates a quick 1-0 lead.
Hendricks would not allow another run on Sunday. However, he did not have his best control which led to his pitch count getting high and hit outing ending early. Kudos to the Pirates as well for putting together some strong at bats and making Hendricks work.
In his 5 innings of work, Hendricks struck out four, walked two, and allowed just three hits.
Gregory Polanco stepped to the plate just 4 for his last 46 and in dire need of a big hit. Polanco would get said hit when he ripped his first triple of the season into the right field corner to empty the bases making the score 5-0 Pirates. Jordy Mercer would then single home Polanco, making it 6-0 Bucs after five and a half innings of play.
Bell and Polanco were two of the struggling Pirates that had strong games on Sunday. Bell finished with a base hit and three walks in four trips to the plate, while Polanco drew a walk to go along with his three-run triple.
Ivan Nova returned from the disabled list for the Pirates on Sunday and made the start instead of the originally scheduled starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. Nova would go on to turn in a strong start that the Pirates were in dire need of.
After pitching 5 scoreless innings to start his day, Nova allowed a double to Jason Heyward to start the bottom of the 6th inning. Nova would issue a two-out walk that would then bring his day to an end.
Nova had his good curveball working on Sunday and his fastball appeared to have an extra tick or two on the radar gun. In 5 2/3 innings pitched Nova allowed just the one run on four hits, two walks, and a season-high eight strikeouts.
Prior to going on the disabled list Nova’s struggles had reached the point that he was the team’s worst starting pitcher. Sunday’s strong start was one that he needed and it may be the start of proving that his biggest issue was indeed his sprained middle finger.
With two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning Edgar Santana replaced Nova. Santana got the final out of the inning and followed that up with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 7th inning. Somewhat quietly, Santana has turned into one of the team’s best relievers this season as he now owns a 2.95 FIP and a sparkling 21:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 2/3 innings pitched.
After the Pirates tacked on a seventh run in the top of the 8th inning, Kyle Crick took the ball in the inning’s bottom half. Crick would proceed to toss a 1-2-3 inning, while recording a strikeout, to keep the score 7-1 Pirates.
Felipe Vazquez took the mound for the Pirates in the bottom of the 9th inning. Vazquez fired a 1-2-3 inning, he hit 99+ on the radar gun multiple times, and looked the best he has in a few weeks as he also joined the fold of struggling players that had a good game on Sunday.
Sunday afternoon’s 7-1 victory was one of the best all-around games the Pittsburgh Pirates have played in quite awhile. Hopefully, this victory can help to get the team back on the track they were during the first seven weeks of the season when they looked like one of the National League’s best teams.
Next up for the Pirates is a trip to the desert to play a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Game one is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. on Monday with Joe Musgrove slated to make the start after having today’s pushed back to back room for Ivan Nova.