Many times during the 2013 season, the Chicago Cubs would be the beneficiaries of quality pitching but would fail to cash in as their offense would cease to put up any sort of run production.
After the first two games of the 2014 season, the story hasn’t changed for the Cubs. When the Cubs did finally got the offense in the 12th inning to give the team their first lead of the season, it was short-lived as Cubs closer Jose Veras faltered in the 12th inning. The Cubs would go on to lose to the Pirates 4-3 in 16 innings.
Edwin Jackson was the starting pitcher for the Cubs on Wednesday. Jackson struggled with his command throughout his Wednesday night start against the Pittsburgh Pirates but still managed to be effective. Jackson pitched 5 1/3 innings on Wednesday allowing two runs on 2 hits and 4 walks. One of the runs that Jackson allowed was the result of an error on shortstop Starlin Castro in the sixth inning.
Charlie Morton was the latest Pirates starting pitcher to handcuff the Cubs offense. Morton pitched six shutout innings on Wednesday while only giving up 4 hits to go along with 1 walk while striking out six.
The Cubs continued to be shutout in the seventh inning by Pirates reliever Tony Watson. It was not until the eighth inning that the Cubs would finally score their first run of the season.
In the eighth inning of the game, the Cubs had their greatest scoring opportunity of the game. The Cubs had bases loaded with one out and Nate Schierholtz at the plate. The opportunity appeared to have been thwarted when Schierholtz grounded to second base which started a routine double play. Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged the play. After a replay review, umpires ruled that the shortstop came off the base at second thus making Anthony Rizzo safe. As a result of the replay, Emilio Bonifacio scored the Cubs first run of the season. The inning ended when, with the tying run, Luis Valbuena, on third base, Ryan Sweeney grounded out to second.
Cue the jokes that the Cubs needed instant replay to score their first run of the season.
Though in the ninth inning against Pirates closer Jason Grilli, the Cubs proved they did not need instant replay to generate offense. The scoring opportunity was created after Junior Lake singled with one out. After Mike Olt flew out for the second out of the inning, the rally was started with Lake on first base; Lake was put into scoring position when Bonifacio singled and that paved the way for the Cubs to tie the game when Valbuena singled to push across Lake and tie the game at 2.
The game would remain tied at 2 until the 12th inning. In the 12th inning, Rizzo hit a go-ahead home run for the Cubs against Pirates’ reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Rizzo’s home run should have been the difference maker had not been for the struggles of Jose Veras in the 12th inning. Veras walked a batter and a hit a batter after recording the first out of the 12th inning. Clint Barmes then scored the tying run for the Pirates when Jose Tabata singled to left field. Veras did manage to strikeout Andrew McCutchen with the bases loaded to end the 12th inning with the score tied at 3.
The game would appear to be on the verge of ending in the next inning as Cubs’ relief pitcher Wesley Wright entered the game in the 13th inning and immediately loaded the bases. Wright then forced Barmes to hit into a double play before intentionally walking Jordy Mercer to set up a force at every base with Tabata due up for the Pirates. Tabata then grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning
The game was not decided until the 16th inning. In the 16th inning, Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva allowed a single to Tony Sanchez with runners on second and third with one out. Tabata scored the winning run on Sanchez’s single.
- Emilio Bonifacio continues his hot-stretch to start the season. After collecting four hits on Opening Day, Bonifacio added another five hits on Wednesday night. Bonifacio was also picked off for the second straight game. Bonifacio has had trouble reading Pirates pitchers in the season’s first two games and that is something to watch going forward.
- Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are combined to have one hit on the season. Rizzo may have broke out of his slump with his home run in the 12 inning but Castro was o-for-6 with 2 strikeouts.