Cubs Take the Series Opener 6-3 as Bucs Bats Wake Up Too Late

The Pittsburgh Pirates embarked on their second road trip of the season tonight, this time the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago to square off against the Cubs.

Yu Darvish vs Trevor Williams. If this was the whole story there isn’t much to it. Darvish looked like the ace Chicago hoped they were getting when they signed him to a lucrative extension last season even hitting 98 on the gun on more than a couple occasions which has never been part of his game. Yu hangs around the 95-96 mark so the extra speed added to the confusion Pirates batters brought with them from PNC. Darvish would finish with 6 innings of 2 hit ball. He also walked Adam Frazier on the first at bat of the game but caught him leaning for Adam’s second pick off at first in the young campaign.

Williams did what he seems to do more often than not, held his own and worked the edges to fight through 4.2 innings. Giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, he also committed an error. As is course with Williams, his pitch count was absolutely out of hand by the 4th inning as he was well beyond 90 by the time he was replaced.

Now, I’m going to suggest something here and I know full well they won’t do it, at least not this season, but Trevor Williams isn’t a starter. He just isn’t. What he can do is fine, its actually a skill set the club badly needs. He’s a long reliever and I think he’d probably be a pretty good one. See I can’t even say he’s doing the wrong thing nitpicking the corners, its what his stuff demands, but that is never going to allow him to get past the 5th, and if he runs into a patient team, which the Cubs are not, he’ will struggle to hit that mark.

Again, I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m not hating on the guy, but the world needs ditch diggers too and his lot in life is not starting. We’ve seen enough evidence now. If evaluation is really the goal, why not give Brubaker these starts? He has been a starter his entire career and he has upside Williams can’t dream of at this stage. Williams could be a very effective long to middle relief arm and could probably even add some velo if he wasn’t trying futility to stretch himself out.

I’m sure for this season, they’ll just leave him in the rotation, he has experience and I suppose that has it’s merit, but it’s hard to understand how Kuhl who cruised through four innings needs to be part of a piggyback while Williams looks like he’s reenacting scenes from 300 for 4 doesn’t. Add it to the list of questions I’m sure people would love to ask the skipper if only they had more than a Zoom call with no follow up questions.

Anyway,

In the top of the eighth Gregory Polanco showed signs of life, hammering a double to the wall to lead off. The Pirates threatened to strand him there but Dyson came through with a single to get the Bucs on the board.

So we head to the bottom of the 8th and I should mention at this point the Pirates had already survived Del Pozo pitching part of the 7th. To reward his team that finally started looking interested in hitting, Shelton left Del Pozo in to start this inning. Well a single and a walk later and Derek Shelton called on Neverauskus, because why not right? Yup, base hit to load the bases. base hit to score two more, 6-1.

Still nobody out mind you, but Neverauskus got Baez to ground out and walked the next batter, finally getting a double play to end the frame.

OK, every player in that room would tell you they have Del Pozo’s back. They’d all tell you the coach trusts us to do our jobs, or if you’re in the show you are capable of doing whatever. You can’t tell me honestly as a player on this club, after scoring your first run in almost two full games and clawing back within three, that it isn’t disappointing to see this manager stick with someone he was lucky to escape an inning with already. At that to turn to Neverauskus.

If you’re group of pitchers looks like Williams, Turley, Hartlieb, Del Pozo, and Neverauskus chances are your record looks like a Facebook fan prediction.

In the 9th the Cubs turned to Craig Kimbrel who is all name and no substance at this point. He gave up a solo bomb to Josh Bell and Colin Moran went back to back opposite field. Too little too late but that Cubbies bullpen isn’t a whole lot better than the Bucs. Perhaps something to build on at best.

The Clubs Meet again tomorrow night at 8:15 EST and should air on ATT Sportsnet

News & Notes:

  • Bryan Reynolds continued to misfire tonight and it’s becoming more worrisome by the day. I don’t think he’s a bust or going to bomb out this year because of some sophomore voodoo but he does not look like himself at this point. Pitchers are victimizing him up and in with heat and we saw some of this toward the end of last season. He lacks so far the patience he showed to let that pitch go more often than not as he did in 2019. It’s an issue, because in trying to gear up to catch it he’s off time on the off speed. He’ll get it, but maybe needs a night to reflect if you will.
  • Colin Moran is not a fluke. He’s being patient and taking walks when pitchers are working around him. He’s punishing mistakes, and he’s doing it against pitchers from both sides of the plate. I got news for you, Moran isn’t a bust. He’ll never make that Cole trade feel good, but in isolation, this is a guy who is really becoming a good ball player. If you believe in Hayes, he is going to help the Pirates one way or another by hitting this way.
  • I wanted to focus on how the two rookie managers handled their rosters this weekend and this game was the first opportunity. We saw Ross make pretty pedestrian changes in this ballgame, but with a lead most of the game and a starter throwing darts, there wasn’t much to manage. Shelton was again in my opinion a bit slow changing pitchers, I always feel he is a batter or two late, and seems to love leaving them in spanning inning breaks. this is an American League thing, you see that much more in that league because pinch hitting isn’t a factor, NL pitchers and players are more accustomed to clean innings. Doesn’t mean he’s wrong, just an observation. Let’s keep our eyes on this.
  • Josh Bell made solid contact a couple times in this game one leaving the yard in the 9th, but overall a step forward for him tonight. If you want a positive to hang your hat on not named Colin Moran, Bell is your guy. He looked much more comfortable all night even while Darvish was dealing.
  • Cole Tucker handled Right Field capably and popped a single to center. Good to see him taking better at bats and swings but he still gets fooled far too regularly. He’s young, totally get it, but if he is taking at bats from Osuna before the season is lost, I have a problem.
  • Speaking of Osuna, three straight games he hasn’t seen the field. When he’s been in the lineup he has hit, certainly not something everyone can say. If its about splits, he actually hit better against right handers last season. Of all the Sheltyness we’ve seen from Shelton this is the most flabbergasting. If this season isn’t about finding out what you have in guys you need to decide on, what is it about?

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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