After dropping the first game to the Cubs on Friday night, 6-3, the Pirates were looking to get back on the right track as former top prospect, Mitch Keller, took the mound for the Pittsburgh against Chicago right Tyler Chatwood. Pirates fan were just hoping that the Bucco bats would wake up a little bit as they currently sat last in that category with a .178/.242/.306 slash line.
As the game started it looked as if things were finally going to swing in the Pirates direction as Adam Frazier led off the game with a double on a line drive to centerfield. However, this optimism was short lived as Chatwood would go on to allow only one other Pirate to touch the base paths until the 7th inning, striking out 10 batters along the way. In the top of the 7th they finally got to Chatwood as Kevin Newman led off the inning. He would retire two more, one swinging, before allowing a single to Bryan Reynolds and a walk to Gregory Polanco to load the bases. The Pirates were on the verge of a big inning as Jeremy Jeffress got Phillip Evans to ground out, ending the rally for the time being. Over 6 2/3 innings Chatwood would strike out a total of 11 batters, walk 2, allow 3 hits and not give up a single run.
On the other side Keller began the night a lot like he had in his previous start; struggling at times, but limiting damage as he got out of the 1st inning with out surrendering a run. He gave up a lead off double to Ian Happ and walked the second batter, only to strike out Javy Baez and induce a double play to end in the inning. In the second it was much of the same as Wilson Contreras doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. Newman then saved a run as he choose to go home, nabbing Contreras. A fly out to Polanco later and Keller has escaped another inning unscathed. This would not be the case in the third as solo home runs to both Happ and Baez put the Cubs up 2-0. Kyle Schwarber would then single right before disaster struck. Keller bounced a curveball to catcher John Ryan Murphy, called for the trainer, pointed to his side and exited the game after on 2 2/3 innings. The Pirates inconsistent bullpen would be in charge of taking it the rest of the way.
On the season thus far the Pirates relievers have a combined for a 4.63 ERA, only 2 holds and 2 blown saves, but it has not been all bad as Chris Stratton and JT Brubaker were about to prove. Stratton got the Pirates out of the 3rd by striking out Contreras and then had a 1-2-3 bottom of the 4th, striking out Nico Hoerner in the process. In the 5th Brubaker entered the game and systematically took apart the Cubs for the next 3 innings; striking out 3, while allowing only one hit and a walk. So far this season Brubaker has impressed; not allowing a single run in five innings of work.
Unfortunately for the Pirates the hard work of Stratton and Brubaker would be all but erased as Michael Feliz entered in the 8th and promptly gave up 2 runs, both on a Schwarber homer. Miguel Del Pozo would enter the game and fight his way threw the rest of the inning, not allowing another run, but the damage was already done. Going into the top of the 9th the Cubs led the Pirates 4-0 and to that point had Pittsburgh to get 3 hits.
The Pirates began their rally with a Newman single and two batters later, a Colin Moran home run; his 5th of this young season. Reynolds would then double and eventually score on a Polanco ground out, bringing Pittsburgh to within one run. However, just as it had the previous night the rally would come up short as Jose Osuna would ground into force out; leaving the Pirates fans disappointed with a second straight loss to the Cubs, 4-3.
After another gut wrenching defeat, topped by the loss of Keller to injury, the 2-6 Pirates will look to right the ship as they take on the Cubs in a Sunday Matinee at Wrigley, with Steven Brault set to take the mound in another potential “piggybacking” start co-starring Chad Kuhl against the veteran lefty Jon Lester.