The storyline was all set up. The headline written: “Pirates Sweep Cubs! Team Rights The Ship.”
Cody Ransom had other ideas. The Chicago Cubs‘ second basemen atoned for getting picked off second base in a critical situation earlier in the game by lifting a three-run homer into the first row of the left field stands to salvage the third and final game of the series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had to settle for taking two of three games.
Still, while maybe not completely righting the ship, taking two out of three from any professional team on their home turf is enough, at the very least, to stop the ship from sailing off in the wrong direction.
Losers of five of their last six coming into the series, the Pirates needed to get back to their winning April and May ways of .630 baseball to put to rest any mumbling and grumblings about another season-crushing meltdown, and the Cubs were just the ticket.
Jeff Locke turned in another stellar, albeit shortened performance, by allowing just one hit in 5.1 innings; but once again, the offense was nowhere to be found. The highlight of the series was A.J. Burnett‘s 8.1 innings of four-hit baseball in game two. Manager Clint Hurdle gave the veteran right-hander every opportunity to go the distance and notch his 11th career complete-game shutout, but a ninth-inning single by Anthony Rizzo followed by an Alfonso Soriano homer sent the disappointed Burnett to the bench to watch lefty Tony Watson get the final two outs of the game.
Francisco Lirinao’s two-hit seven-inning stint in game one may have actually been better than Burnett’s, but the way the Cubs swung the bat made it more of a ho-hum yawner than a highlight.
The team will look to continue on the uptick as they travel back to the ‘Burg after an off-day on Monday for six games against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. They’re not the Cubs obviously, so the Pirates will have to pick things up with sticks if they want to avoid losing any ground in the current race with the league-best St. Louis Cardinals and the talented Cincinnati Reds for the division title.
Both the Giants and Dodgers pitching staffs have under-performed so far this season, and some home cooking might do the Pirates’ batting averages some good.
Pitching, pitching and more pitching has been the MO for the Bucs this season, and while that’s never a bad thing, the bats have to come alive, because sooner or later the arms will tire and ERAs will rise. It would be nice to be able to win some 7-5 games instead of always relying on the pitching staff to carry them to 2-1 and 3-2 victories.
Again, fans certainly can’t (and shouldn’t) complain about good pitching, but without some better offensive numbers, it’s not going to be enough to keep the team in contention.