Walk the plank: Cubs swept by Pirates as their implosion continues
Although the pleasant pregame chat between Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon did not indicate as much, the Chicago Cubs are in free fall as the season's end nears. (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Walk the plank: Cubs swept by Pirates as their implosion continues

by - Senior Writer -

PITTSBURGH — With a makeshift starting lineup indicative of the meaninglessness of the contest, the Chicago Cubs (82-77) fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates (68-91) on Thursday. The series finale at PNC Park marked the first full outing for the Cubs since they were eliminated from playoff contention, and it resulted in the North Siders having their season-worst losing streak extended to nine games. The Pirates, who entered the 3-game set on a 9-game losing skid, amassed 16 hits and won 9-5 to secure their lone sweep of the Cubs this year.

Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana finished off his underwhelming 2019 campaign with a subpar 5-inning stint on the mound, in which he gave up seven runs, five of which were earned, on 12 hits. As of now, Quintana's 4.68 ERA is the second-highest ERA of any qualifying starter in the National League. A pair of errors did not help Quintana's cause, as the stretch of poor defense that has been a staple of Chicago's recent skid continued. The Cubs are currently either first or second in the National League for errors, outs suffered on the basepaths and blown saves.

Due to the numerous injury issues faced by the Cubs, several notable players were effectively shut down for the remainder of the season once the team was knocked out of postseason contention, making for an interesting Cubs lineup on Thursday. For example, Tony Kemp started in left field and batted leadoff. Robel Garcia started at second base, and Addison Russell started at shortstop. Both middle infielders committed costly errors in what served as the first start for each of them in quite some time.

Errors aside, the Pirates were clutch at the plate, as they produced several 2-out rallies and went 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position. A 2-out rally in the bottom of the first culminated in Pablo Reyes smacking a 2-run triple to deep center field. Three more runs were scored by the Buccos with two outs in the bottom of the third. Jose Osuna hit a double to right field that scored two runs, with Garcia failing to catch the relay throw from the outfield for the first Cubs error of the evening. A few at-bats later, Jacob Stallings swatted an RBI single to center field, putting the Pirates up 5-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, Russell had an opportunity to end the inning, but, instead, he misfired a throw to first base after fielding a grounder, enabling a run to score. Then, another Pittsburgh run was tallied with outs, as Jake Elmore recorded an RBI base hit to left field. Daniel Descalso sparked a 2-run sixth inning for the Cubs by drawing a catcher's interference to lead things off. After an ensuing walk, Ian Happ drilled a double that bounced off the right-field wall and ushered both baserunners across the dish. Soon afterward, Happ came home on an RBI groundout from Jonathan Lucroy.

The Cubs pulled within four in the top of the sixth, but the Pirates tacked on a few runs in the bottom of the sixth to build their lead back up. An RBI infield single by Adam Frazier and an RBI double off the bat of Melky Cabrera put the Pirates up 9-3. The Cubs responded by manufacturing two 2-out runs on an RBI double from Kemp and and RBI single by Nico Hoerner, respectively, in the top of the seventh. However, the Cubs, who won the 19-game season series versus the Pirates by a tally of 11-8, went scoreless the rest of the way and lost 9-5.

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sep 26, 2019 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago (82-77) 0 0 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 5 6 2
Pittsburgh (68-91) 2 0 3 0 2 2 0 0 - 9 16 1
W: Joe Musgrove (11-12) L: Jose Quintana (13-9)

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