Well, a common theme so far for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs has been a lack of offense and run production. That theme continued on Thursday afternoon, but the Cubs were able to muster a bit more offense to give them a 4-2 win in game one of a three game stint at PNC Park.
The Pittsburgh Pirates welcomed fans back into PNC Park for the first time in about a year and a half for their home opener agains the Chicago Cubs. On a day filled with excitement and anticipation for the first pitch, the game itself did not really follow through with that trend.
The visiting Cubs struck early in the game thanks to a Kris Bryant solo shot to center in the top half of the first. Bryant had a great day at the plate as he went 2-4 with the home run and a double to go with it.
After stranding six runners on the bases in the first three innings, the Bucs finally cracked the scoreboard on a sacrifice fly from Dustin that scored Gregory Polanco. Later in the inning, Adam Frazier would drive in Jacob Stallings on a two-out knock into right field that gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
After Anthony Rizzo reached on a base hit in the top half of the sixth, Javier Baez put the Cubs back in front on a homer to left field in which it looked like he was on the golf course. Anderson delivered a pitch that was about four or five inches below the zone, and Baez went down and got it. His homer made it 3-2 Cubs.
Chicago would add an insurance run in the eighth off the bat of Rizzo, as he roped a solo shot over the Clemente wall off of Pirates’ pitcher Sam Howard.
The Pirates had the bases loaded with only one out in the bottom half of the eighth inning, but were unable to produce anything as Fowler and Wilmer Difo were retired with ugly strikeouts.
The Offensive Woes Continue
The Pirates were hoping that their first home-stand would be a recipe for success at the plate after a tough series in Cincinnati. However, that was not the case in the home opener.
The lineup was able to produce 7 hits in the game, but they were really hurt by the 11 runners that were left on base. There were plenty of chances for the offense to produce, but the fourth inning was the only section in the box score where the did not put up a zero.
What Stood Out?
It’s always hard to find bright spots in a loss, especially when it is the sixth-consecutive loss, but we can try our best.
After having an abysmal start to the year, Polanco looked like he was finally starting to figure it out in the game on Thursday afternoon. Polanco crushed a ball the opposite way in the second inning that was calculated to be a homer in 28 MLB ballparks, but of course with the luck of the Pirates, PNC Park was not one of them and Polanco had to settle for a double. He was then able to sneak a single on a little blooper in between Joc Pederson and Baez in his next at-bat. That was followed by another hard hit ball into deep center field this time that was caught at the warning track by Jake Marisnick, but it was good to see the power back in the bat of Polanco.
Tyler Anderson had about as good of a start as Pirates fans should expect out of him. Anderson pitched well and lasted 5 1/3 innings before being pulled. He gave up 3 runs on 9 hits and struck out 5.
Even though it is just seven games into the season, it is time to start wondering how much longer Manager Derek Shelton will continue using the combination of Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler in center field. The experiment has not started strong and the two are a combined 3-23, with Fowler having all three hits.
Jake Arrieta did not look dominant by any means, but he picked up the win as he tossed six complete innings while giving up 2 runs on 7 hits. Craig Kimbrel picked up a five-out save and Anderson was charged with the loss.
Both teams will have a day off on Friday, and then they will meet back at PNC Park for game two of the series on Saturday night. The pitching matchup will feature Mitch Keller for the Pirates and Zach Davies for the Cubs. First pitch is set for 6:35 PM ET as the Pirates will look to snap their 6-game losing streak.