Wisdom smacks clutch extra-inning homer in win over Pirates

Wisdom smacks clutch extra-inning homer in win over Pirates

by - Senior Writer -

PITTSBURGH - The hits keep coming for this Chicago Cubs (24-17) team, as the injury bug won't let go. A few days after Dansby Swanson went on the IL with a knee injury, Yency Almonte was placed on the IL on Saturday as Jose Cuas was recalled. Add in that Jameson Taillon was pushed back a few days due to his back flaring up a bit, and the injury issues are still a concern for this team.

On the bright side, Kyle Hendricks returned from the IL on Sunday and rejoined the rotation for the Cubs series Finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates (18-23) at PNC Park. Things have been a struggle for Hendricks all season, as a lack of command mixed with hard contact saw him post some of the worst April results in his career.

Looking to get back on track, Hendricks took on a Pirates offense that he is very familiar with, and for the most part, he pitched well enough to win. While the final line isn't great as he walked four and struck out five in five innings, all that matters is that the Professor allowed just one-run as the Cubs held off the Pirates in 10 innings 5-4 to take the series.

This was a step in the right direction for Hendricks, and if these are the starts the Cubs can get from him the rest of the way, the Cubs will gladly take them. After seeing Jared Jones and Paul Skenes to begin this series, Bailey Falter had to be considered a gift on Sunday. The left-hander isn't viewed as a significant piece to the rotation, but you wouldn't have guessed that as he gave the Pirates six strong innings of two-run strikeout ball.

Both of those runs came in the first inning, as the Cubs got on the board quickly. With Nico Hoerner setting the table with a leadoff single, Christopher Morel delivered the big blow, as his two-run blast gave the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

Little did anyone know, those would be the last of the Cubs' runs until extras, as Falter and company did a great job of keeping the Cubs' offense in check.

That put all of the pressure on Hendricks to put forth a quality outing, and for the most part, he did just that as he allowed minimal baserunners through the first three innings. With Patrick Wisdom and Morel leading the top of the fourth off with a pair of singles, the Cubs had a chance to add on, only to come away empty-handed. It was their lack of execution at that moment that almost proved costly for the Cubs as Oneil Cruz connected for a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth to pull the Pirates within 2-1.

A pair of Hendricks walks followed his homer, and suddenly, Hendricks lost his touch on the mound and was on the verge of letting a big inning happen. To his credit, he was able to limit the damage at one run before getting through the fifth to close out his start with the lead and put himself in a position to win his first start of 2024.

As we have seen far too often in the early part of this season, no lead is safe for the Cubs pen, especially when the game is decided by less than three runs. Richard Lovelady was the first man out of the pen for Craig Counsell, and after allowing a one-out double to Connor Joe, this was a 2-2 game. Jack Suwinski moved Joe to third with a massive single before the Jared Triolo sacrifice fly brought things back to even.

Take Lovelady's outing out of the equation, and the Cubs bullpen pitched well. They had to, as the Pirates pen was surprisingly strong all series long, apart from game two. Luis Ortiz worked around a seventh-inning jam to keep the Cubs off the board, with Colten Brewer and Mark Leiter Jr. doing the same in the seventh and eighth. Leiter Jr. was the standout reliever in this one, as he gave the Cubs 1 2/3 scoreless frames with a pair of strikeouts to bring his ERA down to 0.53.

Looking to cash in off of David Bednar in the ninth, Ian Happ got things off to a great start as his leadoff double set the Cubs offense up in a good spot. Pete Crow-Armstrong entered the game as a pinch runner and would get to third on the Nick Madrigal groundout, only to be stranded there to end the inning.

At some point, the Cubs can't keep wasting these scoring chances, especially when Hector Neris enters the ninth inning with a tie-ball game. Given the nickname the Heart Attack by several relievers, Neris doesn't make things easy as a pair of one-out singles from Joey Bart and Edward Olivares had the Pirates in a position to steal the series.

Neris then intentionally walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases and put the Cubs in a tough spot. However, as he has done so often this season, Neris knows how to get into trouble. He also knows how to get out of trouble, as he somehow escaped the bases-loaded jam to keep the Pirates off the board and send this game to extras.

In the extra frame, it was all about the offense as five total runs came across to score in this inning. The Cubs opened the scoring with an RBI single from Cody Bellinger, only to be thrown out trying to stretch that single into a double.

That almost proved costly as the Miles Mastrobuoni flyout had the Cubs on the verge of a short inning, only to have Patrick Wisdom uncork a massive homer to make things 4-2.

His homer was followed by a pair of walks and a PCA single as a costly wild pitch from Kyle Nicholas allowed Tauchman to score and put the Cubs in front 5-2. That run would be crucial as it proved to be the winning run. Like Neris, Adbert Alzolay has had massive issues this season, pitching into trouble. However, he hasn't been able to pitch out of trouble like Neris.

Tasked with picking up his first save in nearly a month, Alzolay continued to struggle with the long ball as Joe touched him up for a two-run shot, and just like that, this was a 5-4 game. Another walk followed that homer, and you could see the frustration setting on Alzolay and the Cubs again. However, this was one of those times where he figured out how to get his mojo back as Alzolay went on to retire the final three hitters he faced to close out the Cubs 5-4 extra inning win.

The Cubs had nine hits in the game, with Wisdom leading the way with three and Morel adding two. Since returning from the IL and settling into his part-time role, Wisdom is seeing the ball well, hitting .321 this season.

Chicago will close out their road trip with a three-game set in Atlanta, as Shota Imanaga will take the ball on Monday.

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