Homer-happy Pirates defeat Cubs in series finale

by - Senior Writer -
It was a frustrating afternoon for a Chicago Cubs team that simply could not keep up with the homer-happy Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports)
It was a frustrating afternoon for a Chicago Cubs team that simply could not keep up with the homer-happy Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs' prized acquisition at last year's trade deadline was relief pitcher Justin Wilson, and, thus far in Wilson's Cubs tenure, that has proven to be one of the few head-scratching transactions made by the Cubs' front office gurus, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein. In the rubber match of the series between Chicago and the divisional foe Pittsburgh Pirates, Wilson epitomized why he was dropped from the Cubs' NLCS roster this past October, blowing a decent chance at a critical victory for the Cubs by way of a seventh-inning implosion.

Falling by a final tally of 6-1, the Cubs were far more competitive than the score indicates, due in large part to a great performance by left fielder Kyle Schwarber. Going 3-4 at the plate, Schwarber was solely responsible for the Cubs' lone run of the afternoon, sending a pitch from Pirates starter Trevor Williams sailing into the seats beyond right field in the fourth inning. Schwarber now has three homers on the young season.

The Schwarber bomb, which led off the bottom half of the fourth, knotted the game up at 1-1, neutralizing a solo homer by Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco in the opening frame. One of the few mistakes made by Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks, the homer was one of two runs and five hits given up by the Chicago right-hander, who totaled seven strikeouts.

Chicago wasted multiple scoring chances early on, including a one-out double by leadoff man Ian Happ in the third inning. Happ was 2-4 in the contest. Meanwhile, Hendricks was able to avoid giving up additional runs in the third inning, escaping a two-outs, bases-loaded jam by forcing Francisco Cervelli into a fielder's choice groundout.

Hendricks could not avoid getting taken for another run in the top of the fifth, though, with Pirates leadoff hitter Adam Frazier smacking his first home run of the season over the wall in center field. Hendricks earned the loss for his six-inning stint, falling to 0-1 overall. The true loser of the game, however, was Wilson.

Following another wasted double by a Cub in the bottom of the sixth, with Schwarber getting stranded at second following a two-out two-bagger, the Cubs saw their deficit drastically increase in the seventh. Polanco hit his second home run of the game to start the inning, taking Wilson to straightaway center for his fifth dinger of the spring. Later in the inning, following a pair of Wilson walks, Cervelli hit his second home run of the year on a three-run blast to left-center that put the Pirates up 6-1 and raised Wilson's ERA to a pitiful 5.68.

The Cubs failed to seriously threaten the Pirates for the remainder of the game, pushing just one man into scoring position. Finishing with seven hits, a mere two fewer than Pittsburgh, Chicago simply did not produce enough pivotal hits to keep up with the Pirates' three-homer performance. Benefiting from a game in which the Buccos scored all six runs via four home runs, Williams (3-0) earned his third win of the season.

The Pirates (9-3) also earned a series win at Wrigley Field over the Cubs (6-6) because of Thursday's victory, with the current NL Central leaders winning two of three in the affair. The Cubs, who are presently three games behind Pittsburgh, will look to rebound this weekend in a three-game series at home against the 7-5 Atlanta Braves.

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