Hendricks struggles early as Cubs fail to sweep Pirates
Kyle Hendricks has struggled with home-run balls this year, giving up more than any other Cubs starter. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Hendricks struggles early as Cubs fail to sweep Pirates

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO — Aiming for a sweep, the Chicago Cubs faltered in Sunday's finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Accruing just four hits and two walks in a one-run effort, the Cubs were done in by a five-run sixth inning on behalf of the Pirates.

Losing 7-1 on a foggy afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Cubs trailed from the get-go and never caught up. After missing Saturday's game due to a personal matter, Pirates leadoff man Josh Harrison smacked a home run to start the contest. Battling through a hard-fought at-bat against Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, Harrison drove the ball to deep left on the eighth pitch of his plate appearance.

Hendricks pitched five innings, in which he was responsible for just one run. He received his third straight loss, though, to fall to 4-6. On the flip side, Pirates starter Ivan Nova pitched well in 5.2 innings of work, fanning eight and giving up just four hits. Making his return from a stint on the disabled list, Nova collected his first win since late April to become 3-5 overall.

The true loser of the ballgame for the Cubs was reliever Brian Duensing, who was charged with four runs on two hits and two walks allowed in the sixth. Austin Meadows led off the sixth with a double and came in to score from third on a single from Elias Diaz a few at-bats later. Duensing then issued a walk to load the bases with one out and was pulled.

Duensing's replacement, Luke Farrell, did not fare any better, giving up a three-run triple to Gregory Polanco and a one-run single to Jordy Mercer in consecutive at-bats. Leading 6-0 at that point, the Buccos coasted to victory thereafter.

The Cubs' lone run came in the sixth, when Anthony Rizzo tallied his 45th RBI on a groundout that brought in Jason Heyward. Heyward, who has been on a roll at the plate lately, went 2-4 and was the only Cub to garner multiple hits on the afternoon.

Pittsburgh scored one more run in the eighth with Cory Mazzoni on the mound. David Freese of the Pirates drove in Josh Bell on a bases-loaded groundout. All four Cubs pitchers who saw action on Sunday gave up at least one run.

Losing 7-1 to the Pirates (32-33), the Cubs (37-25) were outhit 9-4. With the loss, the Cubs failed to overtake the first-place Milwaukee Brewers (39-26), who also lost on Sunday afternoon, in the National League Central standings.

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