Wandy Rodriguez got his first start of the season and the first since June 5, 2013 when he went only 0.1 innings against the Braves and missed the rest of the season with some forearm problems. Rodriguez went a full six innings and gave up only five hits and one walk while giving up three runs, one each of the first three innings. All things considered it was a pretty good start for him. His velocity on his fastball averaged 88 and he didn't hit 90 once in the game. I wasn't really expecting him to be at his best but he settled down in his final three innings and let only one Cub reach base, a Darwin Barney walk, in his final three innings of work. I think Rodriguez will be one of the biggest pieces of the Pirates staff and him going out and giving them a chance to win night in and night out will be a key component. Today he did his job and if he can pitch like this and stay healthy it will bode well going forward.
The Pirates offense was again the issue. They had only five hits on the game and only got one hit from the top of their lineup. Starling Marte struck out three times and Andrew McCutchen had another hitless day. This is much like the first few games of the season and it's been hard to watch at times.
Despite the lack of offense the Pirates fought back and made it a game. The Cubs held a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning when Neil Walker walked with two outs and was followed by a Gaby Sanchez double and then Tony Sanchez cam through again. The game was now 3-2 with six outs left. Good times coming.
The Pirates got the leadoff hitter on in the eighth inning when Jose Tabata singled to center. That was followed by leadoff hitter Starling Marte try to sacrifice Tabata over (cringe). Not only did Marte not succeed in getting the bunt down but he struck out trying to bunt with two strikes. Then in the ninth inning Walker singled to start the inning before Gaby Sanchez popped a bunt up and didn't advance Walker to second. With six outs remaining in the game the Pirates essentially gave away two of them. Gave away 33% of the outs they had left in the game.
These were a few of the post game quotes thanks to Bill Brink of the Post Gazette:
Hurdle: Gaby Sanchez had bunt sign on for 1st pitch in ninth, not for second. Did that on his own.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) April 3, 2014
Hurdle said Marte bunted on his own with two strikes in the eighth.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) April 3, 2014
This is a problem on a few fronts. In the Marte situation there should have never come to a situation where he thought he should have to bunt with two strikes. He should have never had to bunt with zero strikes or one strike. You could argue that Marte is a top three hitter on the team. A top three hitter on the team should not be asked to give up his plate appearance to move a runner up late in the game and his team down one. That player should be swinging the bat. I think that the Sanchez bunt attempt is more of a arguable case but even if he was successful there is less of a chance of scoring that run from second with one out than there is of scoring him from first with no outs.
I have often been critical of Clint Hurdle and his in-game decisions but over the past year or so he has come a long way the past year. With the huge move in defensive shifts and the font offense using advanced stats more and more it is still a little curious as to why Hurdle is so hell bent on bunting in almost every situation that old school manager would have done. I am not a fan of giving outs away and whether it came from the dugout or from the player it probably wasn't a great idea.
Edison Volquez actually came in to pitch for two innings thanks to the long games in the first two games of this series. I don't really think it was necessary to bring him in since he was going to pitch on Sunday but after two innings Hurdle said that he was still in line to go and today was used as his side session. Volquez actually looked pretty good as he gave up only one hit and struck out two while throwing 21 of his 28 pitches for strikes. This will give him a nice confidence boost for when he goes up against a much better lineup when the Cardinals come to down.
This game, and most games this season, came down to the offense. It was not up to par for the third straight game. Luckily the Pirates are 2-1 in those three games. If they get into the business of winning every series then it is going to be a good season. That doesn't mean losses like today are easy to take but winning two out of every three is OK in my book.