The bullpen imploded for the third time in as many nights as the Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Chicago Cubs 7-2 to complete a series sweep
Things do not look good for the Pittsburgh Pirates right now. Thursday night they lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-2, falling to 34-33 on the season. With this loss, the Pirates were swept in their three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh held a lead in each of the three gmaes in this seires. However, poor play and bullpen work regualrly sunk the Bucs in the series. In their last 36 games played at Wrigley Field the Pirates are just 7-29.
Somehow, the Pirates are still in first place in the NL Central. However, they are just half a game ahead of the Brewers, 1 game ahead of the Reds, and just 3.5 ahead of these Cubs. The bottom may finally be falling out on the Bucs.
Pirates strike first
Thursday night the Pirate offense faced a tall task. Chicago starter Marcus Stroman entered the night with a National League best 2.42 ERA. While Stroman pitched well, the Pirates were able to score first.
Ji Hwan Bae singled inside the third base line to start the 3rd inning then went to third on a well executed hit-and-run by Jason Delay. Tucupita Marcano, who walked in his first trip to the plate, then singled home Bae to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
Following Marcano's RBI single Bryan Reynolds grounded out to first base. On the ground out it looked like Cody Bellinger had a play at second base. Instead, he stepped on the bag at first moving the runners up. After Andrew McCutchen walked to load the bases Carlos Santana also grounded out to first base. Once again it looked like Bellinger had a play at second, but he just took the out at first instead. Santana's ground out scored Delay, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Johan Oviedo struggles with control, leads to short night
Johan Oviedo started for the Pirates on Thursday night and the team was in dire need of length from the righty. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Oviedo failing to go deep into the game was very frustrating. Part of what made it so frustrating is that he had some of the best stuff he has had all season. His slider was working extremely well and his fastball velocity was as good as it's been all season. However, Oviedo kept getting deep into counts and struggling to put batters away.
Overall he pitched better than his final line, but allowing 4 runs in 4.1 innings pitched simply is not good enough.
5th inning sinks the Pirates
This series has featured some truly awful baseball from the Pirates. That continued in the 5th inning as the Cubs plated 5 runs to go from trailing 2-1 to leading 6-2. These 5 runs were greatly aided by the play of the Pirates.
Nico Hoerner singled to start the inning and scored on a game tying double by all-time Pirate killer Ian Happ. After Dansby Swanson reached on an infield hit, Oviedo was lifted for Jose Hernandez. This would not fix the issues, nor would it be the last pitcher of the inning for the Pirates.
After allowing a double and a single, Hernandez found himself in a bigger hole and big trouble. Madrigal laid down a run-scoring sacrifice bunt before Hernandez issued back-to-back walks. Hernandez was then lifted for Yerry De Los Santos.
Hoerner greeted De Los Santos with a routine three hopper to shortstop... a routine three hopper that Marcnao booted. This made the score 6-2 Cubs. De Los Santos then struck out Seiya Suzuki to finally end the inning.
More bush league umpiring
The current state of umpiring in Major League Baseball is a total and compelte joke. That statement does not come as a surprise to any baseball fan. Thursday night's shenanigans was just the latest example of this.
What took the cake was the 4th inning. It was ruled that Nick Madrigal was hit by a pitch. Derek Shelton immediately put his hand up signaling he may want to challenge the call while the umpiring met to discuss the call.
Home plate umpire Brain Walsh had a terrible night. He botched a call that we will dive into deeper here shortly and his stirke zone had the consistency of diarrhea. It was a strike zone that had both teams angry and frustarted throughout the night.
After a conference, they decided to stick with the ruling that Madrigal was hit. Shelton then wanted to challenge the call but was not permitted as the umpires said his window of time to challenge to call had expired. Well, Shelton was not going to challenge the call before he knew what the call would be. A rightfully heated Shelton came the umpires a piece of his mind, especially since the ball clearly hit the knob of the bat, before returning to the dugout.
Fire every umpire.
Friday night the Pittsburgh Pirates will send veteran lefty Rich Hill (4.23 ERA, 4.40 FIP) to the mound to kickoff an important three-game series in Milwaukee. The Brewers will counter with veteran righty Julio Teheran (1.48 ERA, 3.52 FIP). First pitch in the series opener between the top two clubs in the NL Central is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.