Cubs collect 20 hits, bombard Pirates in rout
|Thursday, August 31, 2017, 12:20 AM- -|
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs are certainly heating up at the ideal time of the season, with the plate production currently as good as its been all year long for the North Siders. Less than a week after scoring 17 runs, the Cubs were back at it again with another video game-like performance, pouring on 17 runs once more in a shellacking of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Confines that proved to be not so friendly for the Buccos. Highlighted by four home runs and a pair of four-RBI showings from youngsters Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs collected a season-high 20 hits en route to pulling off a three-game sweep of the Pirates via a dominant 17-3 triumph.
Interestingly enough, the Pirates actually held a lead, though rather briefly, at one point in their disastrous blowout loss. Cubs starter Jose Quintana was not on his A game in the opening inning, giving up two runs and suffering from back-to-back HBPs, the latter of which brought in a run. Those control issues proved to be temporary for Quintana, however, as the left-hander pitched six quality innings, in which he only gave up one hit after the first frame and struck out nine batters along the way. The Pirates, as a whole, accrued only three additional hits following their successful debut inning, with a solo shot by first baseman Josh Bell in the sixth serving as the only other offensive excitement for Pittsburgh.
Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova experienced a bevy of issues early on, as well, throwing a wild pitch that led to a two-run single by Happ in the opening frame. Nova was not alone in terms of defensive issues, though, as his teammates suffered from a comedy of errors in the second inning that ultimately resulted in Chicago second baseman Javier Baez becoming the first Cub to steal home since 2010. Baez reached base to begin with because of a fielding error by Pirates third baseman David Freese. Thereafter, Baez stole second and advanced to third due to an errant throw from Pittsburgh catcher Chris Stewart, which set the stage for the stealing of home.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Cubs issued a coup de grace to Nova, tacking on two more runs to go up 5-2. After Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant singled, Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit an RBI to deep left. Rizzo collected two RBI in total on the night to increase his August RBI total to 29, the most for a Cub in any given month since 2008.
Following Rizzo's two-bagger, Happ smashed his 20th home run of the season on a two-run bomb to right. As a result, the Cubs became the first team to ever have five players under the age of 26 hit at least 20 home runs in a season. Happ was not done with his heroics on the night, though, as he hit a double to deep right in the fifth that scored Bryant. Happ finished the game 3-5 with four RBI, bringing his 2017 RBI total to 51.
The Cubs would go on to score seven runs on six hits off of Pirates relievers Steven Brault and A.J. Schugel in the fifth inning, taking a commanding 10-run lead because of it. After Happ's double, Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward drove in a run on a single to center, thereby chasing Brault from the game. The pitching change did not assist the Pirates whatsoever, however, as Baez doubled off of Schugel right off of the bat, putting the Cubs up 9-2. Two at-bats later, Quintana got in on the hitting action with a bloop RBI single, and, not long afterward, Schwarber hit his 24th long ball of the year on a two-run shot to left. Schwarber had one of his more productive nights of the season on Wednesday, with the slugger picking up four RBI on a 2-6 showing.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the game already out of hand, Rizzo made matters worse for the Pirates by becoming the third Cub to hit a homer on the evening, as he batted a solo homer to straightaway center field. During the course of the proceeding inning, Schwarber collected his second round-tripper of the game on a two-run moonshot to right off of Pirates reliever Angel Sanchez.
Leading 15-3, the Cubs continued their relentless scoring approach in the ninth, as they finally utilized small ball to score some runs, with a fielder's choice grounder and an RBI single by leadoff hitter Jon Jay putting two more runs on the board for Chicago. With the 17-3 blowout win, the Cubs improved to 72-60 overall, while the Pirates dropped to 63-71 overall. Quintana picked up the win to become 5-3 as a Cub, and Nova took the loss to fall to 11-12.
Consistently scoring at will lately, Chicago will aim to carry forward with its offensive superiority in its upcoming four-game series with the Atlanta Braves at home. Currently boasting a 3.5-game lead atop the National League Central, the Cubs definitely look like the team to beat in the division as the home stretch of the regular season looms.