The Chicago Cubs came into this three game series in Pittsburgh having only lost one series all season. That series loss however, came from none other than the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates came into Chicago in the previous series and swept the Cubs in dominant fashion, so there is no doubt that the Cubs wanted to return the favor in Pittsburgh.
Although they fell a bit short, Chicago made the statement that they are still on top and not to be messed with. I think the nine run outburst in the first two innings of Monday’s game was more of a series ender than a series starter. I took that as the Cubs statement after getting swept at home and letting the Pirates know that it won’t happen again. It’s that kind of swagger that is fun to watch from such a young and talented team.
Chicago jumpstarted their way into the series with a dominant 14-3 victory behind a solid pitching performance and multiple extra-base hits. It was Brett Anderson throwing for the Cubs on Monday as he finished with an RBI on the night as well. The big chunk of the other RBIs came from Jason Heyward (4) and Ben Zobrist (3). It was a big night for solid hits as five players hit for extra bases, including a 3-run home run from Heyward and doubles from Miguel Montero, Kris Bryant, Zobrist, and Albert Almora.
Nine runs in the first two innings closed this game out as Anderson threw six innings and the bullpen cleaned up the rest. The Cubs were also glad to put an easy win under their belt because game two was much more intense.
Game two was all about the pitching matchup. Kyle Hendricks took the mound for the Cubs, as the Pirates gave the ball to Gerrit Cole. Hendricks led the major leagues in ERA last season as he surprised the whole league with an unbelievable run of dominating performances. Cole is no slouch either, as he has been the Pirates ace for multiple years now.
The two all-stars battled it out for as long as they could, each finishing with an outstanding line. The only blemish on the scorecard came from a throwing error by the second baseman Hanson. So, when all said and done, give Cole seven innings pitched with no earned runs and Hendricks six innings with no earned runs. This was nothing like the first game of the series, but it amazes me that some people would call that a boring game. It was truly outstanding to watch those two athletes go head to head in a one run game since the second inning. I truly enjoyed this game, but in the end, the throwing error from Hanson in the second inning sealed the deal for the Cubs and their recently rock solid bullpen.
It was then on to game three as the Cubs were looking for the sweep in Pittsburgh and trying to turn the tides on the season series. This one however, would not start very well for Chicago.
The Cubs had Jon Lester on the mound as he brought his veteran presence to the PNC mound. Last year I would’ve told you that the only person I wanted throwing in any kind of important game was Lester, but recently he has had to recover from early trouble.
No different on this late April start as Jon’s start became rocky after allowing five runs in the first two innings. He surprisingly kept his pitch count low enough to settle back in and throw five and two thirds innings. Although it wasn’t the outing he wanted, keeping this Chicago team in the game for as long as possible should be the next best thing.
The Cubs started chipping away at the deficit as they made it a one run game heading into the ninth. The Cubs got a man to second with only one out, but a perfect double play ball would end all hopes as the Cubs came up just a bit short of another comeback win this season. They dropped the final game of the series to Pittsburgh 6-5.
Lester allowed five earned runs in his five and two thirds innings pitched in game three. The surprise of the game, to me, was the young righty on the mound for the Pirates, Glasnow. He allowed three earned runs in just three and a third innings of work as his dismissal had to do with hits/walks allowed and a fairly high pitch count. Although there were good points to each pitchers outing, neither would chalk this up as a good day on the mound.
Each team got to showcase their early firepower as the Cubs took game one by a huge margin and Pittsburgh early lead proved to be insurmountable in game three. The pitchers duel in game two was the deciding factor in yet another overall series win on the young season.
I will take into account that the middle of this Pirates lineup is extremely empty without the likes of Marte, Freese, and Kang. The role players on this team will need to step up considerably if Pittsburgh has any dreams of staying afloat early in the season. The Cubs problem this series was the pitching. Anderson had a decent outing but he walked six and only struck out three. Hendricks’ magic number was also three as his three strikeouts in six shutout innings is cause for concern. This all topped by Lester allowing ten hits and five earned runs while only striking out five. The Cubs don’t seem to be missing many bats early in the year and even though they may be making outs now, those groundouts and popups can turn into base hits and homers really quick.
Upside for Pittsburgh in this series is that they got a great outing from their ace this time around and they got some contributions all around the lineup against a great pitcher in game three. The Cubs have found their offense and they have the same never say die attitude as we saw late last season. The confidence and subtle swag from this team is just so fun and captivating to see. You sometimes forget that the massive favorite to win it all this year is still at an average age of just over 28 years old. This series was great to see after getting swept at Wrigley the last time these two teams met.