In the rubber match of a three-game series at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense did not produce enough, which ended up costing them Sunday afternoon. Their 4-3 extra-inning loss to the Cubs means the Pirates were unable to capitalize against a team 11 games under .500 entering the day.
Pittsburgh (53-34) has lost four of its last six following a nine-game winning streak. The Pirates are now tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central, but are still on pace for 99 wins.
Chicago carried a 3-2 lead into the eighth inning, where relievers James Russell and Blake Parker both shut the door, setting the stage for closer Kevin Gregg in the ninth. After two quick outs, Starling Marte battled to keep the Pirates in the game and won hitting a home run just over the left field wall. The pitch was outside of the strike zone but it did not matter as his ninth homer of the season kept his team in the game.
Pittsburgh tried to take the lead after a Jose Tabata walk but a deep fly ball from Andrew McCutchen went straight into Alfonso Soriano’s waiting glove.
The game remained tied until the 11th inning when the first two Cubs hitters reached base. Bryan Morris was in his second inning of work but received another bad break when Martin uncorked a wild throw to second base, putting both runners into scoring position. The Pirates opted to load the bases to better their chances.
The next batter, Dioner Navarro hit a sacrifice fly to score Rizzo and end the game.
This game marked the return of Pirates starter A.J. Burnett. Manager Clint Hurdle elected not to place Burnett on a rehab assignment, choosing instead to send Ryan Reid down. Burnett went five innings allowing two runs while throwing 66 pitches. Both runs were scored in the third inning, although only one was earned.
Pitcher Carlos Villanueva scored the first run because of a fielding error from Garrett Jones, putting Anthony Rizzo on first base and Starlin Castro on third. Castro scored when Alfonso Soriano had a sacrifice fly.
The Pirates would cut the deficit in half after a McCutchen double scored Tabata in the fourth inning and then tied the game an inning later when Tabata doubled in Marte.
Pittsburgh had a chance to take the lead in the sixth inning but were unable to capitalize. The first two batters walked. Brandon Inge then sacrificed both runners into scoring position. What followed next was a turning point.
Jordy Mercer hit a ground ball that Starlin Castro was able to throw home. Knowing he was out, Pedro Alvarez tried to get into a rundown to get Russell Martin to third base. Martin did not go, and as a result there were two outs and just one runner in scoring position. When Pedro Strop came in for the Cubs and struck out Gaby Sanchez, the Pirates had officially missed an opportunity.
The Pirates will return to PNC Park on Monday to play the Oakland Athletics. Jeff Locke will face Bartolo Colon in a battle of pitchers that have been selected for the MLB All-Star Game.
Pirates vs A’s probables:
Monday - Locke [8-1 2.12] vs. Colon [11-3 2.78]
Tuesday - Gerrit Cole [4-1 3.94] vs. Dan Straily [5-2 4.52]
Wednesday - Francisco Liriano [8-3 2.20] vs. Tommy Milone [8-7 4.11]