Cubs Break Through in Extra Innings to Win Series

There are a lot of people you could blame for the Pirates losing Sunday:

  • Brandon Inge for going 0-for-4 and fouling up an easy double play turn
  • Garrett Jones for going 0-for-5, leaving four runners on base and making hiccups at first base
  • Russell Martin for going 0-for-3 and committing his season’s first error in the 11th
  • Manager Clint Hurdle for letting the game slip away without using All-Star Jason Grilli or five infielders
  • Tony Watson for missing his spot and serving up the go-ahead homer in the 7th to Scott Hairston
A.J. Burnett pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Burnett gave up just one earned run over five innings in his return from a calf injury. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

And really you would not be wrong with any of these opinions. After all, scapegoating is a grand tradition in Pittsburgh Sports! Point is that it takes a team to lose. Despite the two hits apiece from Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, despite the strong five innings from A.J. Burnett in his return from injury, despite Vin Mazzaro and Mark Melancon delivering perfect innings and despite Starling Marte hitting a game-tying home run on his final strike…

The Pirates lost. Tip your cap to the Cubs’ pitching staff for allowing three runs over 11 innings.

They should not be losing series to the Cubs, whether they are playing at Wrigley Field and on the moon. At this juncture, the expectation is the Bucs will win three-game series against losing teams. So don’t read into these following paragraphs as an excuse, because the Pirates should have won this series and should have won the previous series against the Phillies at PNC Park.

Now I have to break out the big text.

Stop freaking out about the Pirates losing two series of baseball.

And if you’re not freaking out but are still concerned about the Pirates losing two series of baseball, stop being concerned. Jesse Marshall writes about the Penguins and knows a little about the nature of Pittsburgh fans:

There are people legitimately asking if these two series losses are the beginning of COLLAPSE 3.0: THE COLLAPSENING. While fans never want to see their team lose games, Marshall is dead on that Pittsburghers’ emotions run far too high over a single loss. Even going 2-4 over six games is congruent to being behind 28-14 halfway through the 3rd quarter of any given Steelers game. Every win counts, but not every loss is a bellwether for Losing Season No. 21.

Look at this six-game set as a whole: the Pirates scored 21 runs and allowed 24. Many times that will be enough to go 3-3, this time it was 2-4. The team has been pretty lucky at winning one- and two-run games, but in this set it was unlucky including today’s against a team that has a better run differential than the 38-48 record indicates. No matter how good your bullpen is, not every team is going to be the 2012 Baltimore Orioles and have a .763 winning percentage in one-run games (not a joke, they actually went 29-9).

So what now? The Pirates still need to upgrade their offense, as they are averaging only 3.9 runs per game (12th in the NL) and a 95 wRC+ (9th in the NL). Given the strength of the team’s run prevention ability, such an offense should be enough to see the Pirates play .500 ball the rest of the season, win 90 games and make the playoffs. Key word: should. They are 7th in the NL in offensive production at first base and 13th in right field, allowing plenty of reason to upgrade at either spot.

As they sit tied for first with the St. Louis Cardinals the Bucs get the privilege of heading into the All-Star Break with six home games: three against the first-place Oakland Athletics and three against the not-so-first-place New York Mets. It’s a perfect opportunity to stop a bad week before it turns into a slide, before the number of those willing to rationalize a slight downturn begins to thin.

The Pirates are tied for the best record in Major League Baseball.

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • joe g.

    Inge has to go. They can get better offensive production from Josh Harrison. Snider is not hitting right handed pitching, so what’s the point?

    I don’t want to give up top prospects but given the team’s pitching and overall record, it’s easy to understand why fans would love to see Stanton in a bucs uniform.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Agreed Joe- I think Inge will eventually go. Meaning- 30-45 days. I think de jesus and Harrison are likely to get a permanent bench spot based on their play in AAA. I would like to see de jesus since we haven’t had a look at him, and we already know what Harrison can/can’t do. I like having snider on the bench, he’s been clutch in bench situations late in games, and it seems like Tabata is coming back full tilt right now. Jones literally is having the least productive of any of his seasons right now- I see him getting hot at least in terms of a power surge here soon. Don’t fret guys

  • Monkshot

    I wish that Stanton story would have never come out. I love that the Pirates are winners, but hate how many know it all Steeler fans it has brought back to the game of baseball. Especially when they had given up on the team 19 years ago and have zero idea how baseball works. They are the ones screaming collapse. The Pittsburgh radio stations are flooded with collapse talk and trade recommendations that make zero sense. Yesterday it was A. Meadows for J. Bautista or the best being McCutchen for Stanton straight up, and then bring Polonco up to play LF. The reason? McCutchen is over paid and can’t hit for power anymore. I guess this is the trade off of the Pirates being winners, and guess what? I would take it all day long.

  • moose44

    I think they need to move cutch to left and let marte play center. cutch’s arm is a liability in center and imo marte is the more natural outfielder. He gets great jumps on the ball.

  • https://profiles.google.com/111603688426897012862 Richard Bierer

    Looking at this series, would it be difficult for the Pirates to pick up Soriano to fill that right field need? I imagine the Cubs would love to get some of that salary off their hands.

    A perfect trade would package in Rizzo to play 1st. Giving us a lineup 1-5 of Marte, McCutchen, Soriano, Rizzo, Alverez. That’d be beefy for a playoff run, but might be unobtainable.