Early error provides Cubs with win in pitching duel
|Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 9:55 PM- -|
PITTSBURGH -- On the 141st anniversary of the Cubs' first-ever game, Chicago's matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates progressed like that of an 1870s baseball game. A pitching duel between two aces in Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs and Gerrit Cole of the Pirates, tonight's National League Central battle produced minimal offense. Despite Chicago garnering a measly two hits, a Pittsburgh throwing error enabled the Cubs to walk away victorious in a grueling 1-0 battle.
In the top of the second, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell incited the Cubs with a double toward the wall in right-center, and he was brought home thereafter due to a glaring throwing error from Pirates second baseman Alen Hanson on a Jason Heyward grounder. Russell finished the night 1-3 at the dish.
That proved to be the last offensive excitement for either team in quite some time, though, as each team only accrued a combined five hits between the third and sixth innings. Steals played a factor in the sixth, with Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant picking up his fourth steal of the season and Pirates left fielder Gregory Polanco collecting his fifth. Both steals occurred with two outs, however, and neither resulted in a run.
An old school game in every sense of the epithet, the battle of attrition at PNC Park allowed for the two ace pitchers on the mound to showcase just why they are both considered among the best in the big leagues. Cole was absolutely magnificent, forcing the Cubs into quick outs and having to throw only 78 pitches in his seven innings on the hill because of it. Unfortunately for Cole's sake, his showing essentially resulted in nothing more than a loss being added to his 1-3 record, even though he gave up no earned runs.
As for Hendricks, his performance was equally as dominant. Although he has struggled at times to start the season, in tonight's outing, Hendricks looked the part of the Cy Young frontrunner whose ascension spurred the Cubs forward on their 2016 World Series run. Hendricks was throwing fire on the hill tonight and clearly not caught up in any sort of haze, as his command was impressive. Finishing with a respectable four hits and three strikeouts to his name, Hendricks earned the win to move to 2-1 on the season.
True to form, manager Joe Maddon did not allow Hendricks's start to linger, replacing him with Koji Uehara to start the seventh. Uehara found himself in a jam when Pirates right fielder John Jaso got his only hit of the game on a leadoff double to right. Jaso was then able to take third by tagging up on a flyout, but the veteran Uehara was able to escape the threat unscathed by outing the ensuing two batters.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras drew a walk to start the eighth but was gunned down at second attempting to steal on a strike him out, throw him out double play. The Cubs had an opportunity to separate themselves from the Pirates in the ensuing half inning, as Bryant was walked and later found himself at second base, but nothing came of it. Chicago closer Wade Davis finished the game off in the bottom of the ninth by going three up, three down to secure the Cubs' 1-0 victory in a game that featured only seven combined hits. Davis now has five saves in his debut season with the Cubs.
After this evening's win, which marked Chicago's sixth win in its last seven games, the Cubs (12-8) now stand two games atop the NL Central standings, with the Pirates (8-12) bringing up the rear. While the Pirates found themselves on the cusp of a road sweep of the Cubs a little over a week ago, the tables have turned this time around, as the Cubs will be aiming to skunk the Bucs at PNC Park tomorrow night. Chicago's Jon Lester and Pittsburgh's Tyler Glasnow are set to duke it out on the rubber beginning at 7:05 PM EST.