Chicago Cubs sweep Pirates as bullpen steps up in closing win

The Chicago Cubs improved to 7-2 with a sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and their bullpen had a lot to do with it.

Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs improved to the league’s second-best record at 7-2 with a series-clinching win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 2-1 victory sealed the sweep as the Cubs have now won every one of their three series thus far in this young 2020 season.

Jon Lester took the mound Sunday, and ran into some early trouble. In the first inning, Lester gave up a solo home run to shortstop Kevin Newman which made it 1-0, and he followed it up with a walk.

However, following that small blip, Lester was fantastic. He allowed just four hits over six innings, with just that single run allowed. He also did not walk a batter after that initial BB in the first.

The next three innings, Chicago’s bullpen allowed just two hits, zero runs and struck out three. After Casey Sadler pitched 1.2 innings, Dan Winkler stepped in and struck out a pair of batters and did not allow a single hit.

Following Winkler’s stint, Ryan Tepera tossed 11 pitches in his three outs and allowed a single hit.

Lost in all of this was a very late rain delay. The Cubs and Pirates were tied at one run apiece in the middle of the ninth when the grounds crew rolled out the tarp for a little while. The Cubs couldn’t get it closed out in the bottom of the ninth, so it went to extras.

In the bottom of the 11th, Javy Baez hit a game-winning base hit which brought in David Bote from third.

The Cubs’ other run earlier in the game was scored by Willson Contreras off a Kyle Schwarber hit. It was a pitcher’s duel for most of the game, but the Cubs’ two runs were enough to pull off the sweep.

Sunday’s game was much different than Saturday night, when the Cubs went into the ninth inning up 4-0. Kyle Ryan was credited with giving up three runs, as Chicago barely squeaked by with a 4-3 victory.

So far this season, the Cubs bullpen has been historically bad — maybe the worst in the history of the majors. Only time will tell if they reach that point — and it doesn’t matter that the season is shortened. They’ve been horrendous.

But, Sunday afternoon, the Cubs may have found their pair of most solid relievers to count on this year in Sadler and Jeremy Jeffress, the latter whom closed it out for them. Rowan Wick has had his moments, too, but other than those three, it’s been rough sledding.

The fact that the Cubs got such a great showing out of their pen on Sunday proves that there is indeed hope. They just have to figure out the right guys to put out there day-in and day-out.