Jordan Lyles Shoves In Pittsburgh Pirates Victory
By Marty Leap
The Pittsburgh Pirates were victorious at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night
After a day off on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs continued their three-game series from Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. The Pirates entered this game looking for a bounce back performance after Monday’s 10-0 shellacking at the hands of the Cubs. While it was not always pretty, the Pirates got that bounce back performance.
Led by a great start from Jordan Lyles and some great bullpen management by Clint Hurdle, the Pirates defeated the Cubs 5-2 on Wednesday night. With the win, the Bucs are now 6-4 this season. This game was also their first victory of the season over someone other than the Cincinnati Reds.
Facing the struggling Yu Darvish, the Pirates were able to jump out to a quick lead. With two outs in the top of the 1st inning, Francisco Cervelli hit a solo home run to left field. Cervelli’s first blast of the season gave the Bucs a quick 1-0 lead.
The Pirate power surge would continue in the top of the 3rd inning. With two outs and a runner on base, Starling Marte crushed his first home run of the season into the Chicago night. Marte’s blast made it 3-0 Pirates.
Poor defense has been a theme in the season’s early going for the Pirates. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, poor defense reared its ugly head again.
Albert Almora Jr. hit a ball that appeared to have double play written all over it, but it went off of Jordan Lyles glove for an infield hit. Lyles then uncorked a wild pitch with Darvish attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with no one out.
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After this, Lyles will the calm, cool, and collectedness you love to see from a veteran pitcher. After striking out Darvish and Daniel Descalso, Kris Bryant stepped to the plate against Lyles. Without batting an eye, Lyles made his pitch and got the Cubs slugger to fly out to center field.
With the Bryant fly out, Lyles played escape artist and worked around some poor defense on his part. It also kept the score at 3-0 Pirates after 3 innings.
Leading 3-1, the Pirates were able to get Darvish on the ropes when Marte singled and stole second. A flare hit by Cervelli that put runners on the corners proved to be the knockout blow. Lefty Kyle Ryan was then summoned to replace Darvish.
So far this season the Cubs bullpen has been abysmal. Ryan would continue these woes in the top of the 6th inning.
Josh Bell lined a run-scoring hit into right field off of Ryan. On the hit, Cervelli motored to third base and this proved vital. Ryan would then commit a throwing error trying to pick Bell of of first base, allowing Cervelli to score. This made the score 5-1 Pirates.
In 5 1/3 innings of work Darvish’s woes as a member of the Cubs continued. He allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on fives hits, a hit batter, and a pair of home runs. After posting a 4.95 ERA and a 4.86 FIP in just eight starts for the Cubs in 2018, he now owns a 7.50 ERA and a 7.66 FIP three starts into his 2019 campaign. The six-year $100+ million contract the Cubs gave Darvish prior to the start of the 2018 season continues to look more and more like an albatross with each of his starts.
Wednesday night’s performance was great to see from Marte. If the Pirates are going to compete for a postseason start this season they need Marte to play to his highest potential. Part of this is Marte hitting 20+ home runs and stealing 30+ bags.
While Marte led the way for the Pirate offense on Wednesday night, the real story of the game was Jordan Lyles. After pitching 5 shutout innings in his Pirate debut last Thursday, Lyles was even better on Wednesday.
Going on the road and facing a high-powered Cubs lineup Lyles allowed just a Jason Heyward solo home run in 6 innings of work. Outside of the Heyward home run, he allowed just a pair of singles and he walked a batter. He also tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts.
Throughout his start Lyles was able to place his fastball where he wanted to and had great movement on his breaking pitches. The cold temperatures in Chicago made this movement even more impressive.
To me, Lyles looks like a pitcher gaining more and more confidence with every start. If this trend continues, that will bode well for both the Lyles and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Richard Rodriguez took over for Lyles in the 7th inning. Rodriguez posted a zero, put it did not come easy. With two out and a runner on first, second baseman Adam Frazier committed an error to crack the door open for the Cubs. Rodriguez, however, would put a foot down and induced an inning ending fly out from Ben Zobrist.
Pirate infield defense continues to be a major issue. On top of Frazier’s error, Cervelli was charged with a throwing error in the 6th inning that easily could have been charged to shortstop Erik Gonzalez instead. There was also the botched 3rd inning double play we discussed above. It is absolutely vital that the team cleans up their defensive issues as the season progresses.
Entering the season the Pirates figured to have a dominant 8th/9th inning duo in Keone Kela. Well, so far this season Kela has not held up his end of the deal. That would continue on Wednesday night.
After allowing a base hit and issuing a walk with one out, Kela thew an 0-1 meatball to Javier Baez. Baez would rip the ball into left field for a double that cut the Pirate lead to 5-2, and put base runners on second and third for the Cubs.
Following the Baez hit, Hurdle made the correct call to bring Felipe Vazquez into the game. Hurdle does not always turn to Vazquez in the game’s highest leverage situation, but on Wednesday he did. To no surprise, the move paid off for the Pirate skipper.
Vazquez extinguished the 8th inning fire with a strikeout and a fly out. He then struck out the side in the 9th inning to slam the door on the Cubs in a 5-2 Pirate victory.
It was great to see Hurdle use Vazquez the way he did on Wednesday night. Too often Hurdle wait until the 9th inning to go to Vazquez, and, at times, this costs the Pirates victories. On Wednesday night, he went to Vazquez the second things got hairy and that decision played a huge role in the Pirate victory.
The rubber match of this series is scheduled for 8:05 on Thursday night. Joe Musgrove will make his second start of the season for the Pirates, while the Cubs will counter with lefty Jose Quintana. In two games (one start) this season Quintana has allowed 10 runs on 13 hits, three home runs, and six walks in 7 innings pitched.