The good news is that a day after making seven errors, the Pittsburgh Pirates were flawless with the leather Saturday night.
The bad news is that it didn’t matter as the Bucs dropped a game they should have won, 4-3 to the Chicago Cubs.
Last time the Pirates faced Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver tossed a one-hitter against them. This time it was just as easy.
Samardzija tossed a complete game, allowing only four hits and two earned runs. David DeJesus broke a 3-3 tie when he singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth as the Pirates dropped a game they simply couldn’t afford to lose.
The Bucs got off to a good start in this one, loading the bases in the first inning with one out for Pedro Alvarez, who delivered a two-run single to make it 2-0. But the decision of Clint Hurdle to bat Alex Presley, Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas 6-7-8 in the order had an impact right off the bat as Samardzija struck out Presley and Barmes to end the Bucs only real threat of the night.
James McDonald started for the Bucs and wasn’t horrible, but wasn’t very good either.
He gave up a solo shot to Pirates-killer Alfonso Soriano in the second to cut the lead in half and the Cubs tied it in the third when Luis Valbuena bounced into a double play.
Chicago took the lead in the fifth when Tony Campana led off with a ground-rule double and stole third- one of four bases the Cubs stole on the night. He came around to score on a sac fly off the bat of Valbuena.
McDonald only lasted 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits, three runs and two walks, striking out only two. However Tony Watson and Jared Hughes did a fine job of pitching out of trouble in both the sixth and seventh innings.
While the Pirates pitchers were pitching with men on base all night, Samardzija was cruising. After the RBI single from Alvarez in the first, he went on to retire 19 of the next 20 Pirates batters, only sprinkling in a double by Alvarez in the fourth.
The Pirates bats had no life at all until the seventh inning when they were given a gift by Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro, who lazily threw a ball away on a Rod Barajas grounder. Pinch-hitter Jeff Clement delivered his first major league hit in two years with a rocket of a single off the Clemente Wall to tie the game at three.
However the momentum didn’t last more than a couple minutes.
Jason Grilli allowed a broken bat single to Wilton Castillo and then got both Darwin Barney and Samardzija to ground out to third. But Grilli noticeably pitched around ninth place hitter Campana, walking him to bring DeJesus to the plate. The veteran laced a single to right and Castillo barely slid home ahead of the throw from Presley with the winning run.
Quite simply it was an opportunity wasted and this team can’t afford things like that right now.
Notes: The Cubs have won four road series’ all season long-two at PNC Park…..The Pirates have eight total hits the past two games. For a team that relies on the long ball, that’s a troubling sign…Neil Walker is still out of the lineup…Batting Presley, Barmes and Barajas 6-7-8 meant that the Bucs really had no chance after the fifth hitter in the lineup, given that the three have combined to bat .216 on the season. As expected, the trio went 0 for 10 on the night….Samardzija has allowed five hits over his last 17 innings vs. the Pirates… If there’s any good news coming from this loss it’s the fact that the Pirates won’t have to face Samardzija again this season as the Cubs have shut him down for the season….J-Mac allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in five of six innings… The four stolen bases the Pirates allowed brings the season total to 128 with only 15 thrown out (one tonight).
Winning Pitcher: Jeff Samardzija (9-13)
Losing Pitcher: Jason Grilli (1-5)
MVP: Samardzija- Dominant complete game
LVP: Grilli- Couldn’t get the big out tonight; Honorable Mention- All Pirates hitters not named Pedro
Play of the Game: Bottom first, after Alverez singles in a pair, neither Presley nor Barmes could get the bat on the ball, letting Samardzija off the hook, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
Home Runs: Soriano (27)
Up Next: Sunday September 9 at 1:35 p.m. vs. Chicago Cubs
Probable Starters: Chris Rusin (0-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.82)