Despite hitting back-to-back-to-back solo home runs for the first time in Pittsburgh in 58 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-4 to the Chicago Cubs Friday night. The three consecutive home runs at home was the first occurrence of such a feat since July 6, 1955, and the first time it happened at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (85-62) took a one-run lead in the sixth inning which was immediately erased in the top of the seventh when Jason Grilli gave up a two-run home run to Anthony Rizzo that vaulted Chicago (63-84) from a run down to a run up.
Beyond the three-run inning, Pittsburgh’s only other spot of offense came when Andrew McCutchen scored on an error in the sixth, which put the Pirates up 4-3. But Rizzo’s two-out homer quickly erased the lead.
Starting for the Pirates was Charlie Morton, who lasted just five innings and allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five. The big blow came in the top of the fourth when Brian Bogusevic hit a two-run home run into the bushes to extend Chicago’s lead to 3-0.
For Morton, who needed 93 pitches to get through his five innings, his downfall revolved around a number of “walks and deep counts.” In addition, Morton wasn’t able to get his sinker working as effectively as usual which came to a head when Bogusevic hit the home run.
“The one inning he let three balls get up, all left-handers squared him up,” Hurdle said. “But all said and done. The sinker kind of came and went. The curveball, the split change didn’t really work.”
The results were a byproduct of the Cubs’ lineup which featured six left-handed hitters which pose more of a challenge to a pitcher like Morton.
“They swung the bat. They put a lot of good swings on the bats and they’re professionals,” Morton said. “You don’t make a good pitch, even when you do, a good hitter is going to it hit.”
The start for Morton followed one in which he exited after just one and two-thirds innings, and allowed five runs on six hits. Morton left his recent start with discomfort in his right foot, but was in good enough health to make his start Friday.
“He had to grind one out tonight,” Hurdle said. “He went out there with intent and purpose. The sinker didn’t play consistently.”
While Morton wasn’t consistent, he exited with the Pirates tied for the lead in the game.
“He grinded it out and got us to a good place in the game,” Hurdle said.
In an uncharacteristic turn of events, though, the Pirates bullpen wasn’t able to take a victory home for the Bucs. The two-run home run served up to Rizzo on a slider by Grilli followed an at-bat that saw Luis Valbuena draw a walk after getting a questionable ball-call on Grilli’s 2-2 pitch that appeared to catch the inside edge of the plate to the lefty.
But, Valbuena walked and Rizzo homered to send Grilli back to the dugout for the third consecutive outing in which he was unable to complete a full inning of work.
“This is another time where there’s two outs and he’s one pitch away from getting out of the inning and weren’t able to put away Valbuena and that one ended up hurting. The pitch to Rizzo left the park,” Hurdle said. “We’ve got to keep getting him out there on somewhat of a consistent basis if we want to get him better. He’s not going to get better not pitching.”