This game was really all about Gregory Polanco. I think the Pirates went in with a decent chance to get all over Travis Wood but after tying the game fourth inning Wood and almost every reliever to ever pitch for the Cubs shut the Pirates down and the Cubs were able to even the series.
First, lets touch on Polanco. There were some big time expectations on him coming up. I mean I bought a ticket just to go watch him last night and I am sure some of the other 31,000+ at the game did the same thing. I don't think I had high expectations for him in terms of what I thought he was going to do last night, but things could have gone better for him. They also could have gone worse so it wasn't necessarily a bad night. He ended up going 1-for-5 with four of those at bats coming against the left hander, Wood, and that single came against him when he laced a ball to left field a batter before Andrew McCutchen hit a home run.
A lot of people mocked the Pirates for keeping Polanco down when they said he had things to work on. Some of that might have been truth as Polanco misplayed a ball in right field that led to a run. I am not saying that he wasn't ready to be up but he didn't look overly good in right field, but again it was his first professional game and I must say that if it was me I would probably misplay a ball or two. In a few of his at bats he got under the ball and had a few sky high infield pop-ups but that stuff happens. The coolest thing might have been his first at bat as nearly everyone in PNC Park gave him a nice, loud, ovation. Must have been really cool for the kid. The athleticism was there. On a routine ground ball to the middle infield he nearly beat out. It looked like it took him only four strikes to get down to first base. I knew he was a big kid (6-4, 222) but you don't really see how big he is until you see him in person. To be as athletic he is at that size is pretty remarkable. The crazy thing is that you can still see room for him to put on weight.
Polanco is going to be just fine. Tonight he could go out and got 4-for-4 and that wouldn't surprise me at all. The fact of the matter is that he is hopefully going to turn into a cornerstone player for the team and just like Andrew McCutchen help carry this team to playoff appearances. Time will tell but it was really fun to watch him play last night, for the first time.
Speaking of McCutchen, wow, this guy just keeps getting better. I wasn't sure that McCutchen could top last year and maybe we would see him tread water (not that it would be a bad season if he did that) but he is still, somehow, getting better. Right now he's hitting at a .312/.426/.521 line and in the month of June he is hitting .389/.450/.972. That is just sickening. He is striking out just as much as he is walking and when he is getting pitches to hit he is hammering them. If Polanco is half the player McCutchen is then we are all in for a good next couple of years.
Back to the game. Francisco Liriano got the start and promptly gave up a pair of runs on an Anthony Rizzo two run home run that hasn't landed yet and I was ready for a long game. Thing is, Lirano really settled in after the bad first inning. Heading into the fourth inning he had struck out four and not walked a guy and while he was already 52 pitches through three innings he looked like he turned that corner. Then with a 2-1 count on Rizzo he called the trainer out and left the game with some left side pain. Not good. Looks like Liriano is going to be headed to the DL and the Pirates pitching staff that was already paper thin is most likely going to be patched together by a bunch of AAA guys.
The Pirates kept things together. McCutchen destroyed a baseball in the third inning and then after the Cubs retook the lead in the fourth the Pirates answered right back. Problem is that the Pirates didn't have an answer all night. The Cubs scored a pair of runs in each the sixth and seventh innings and that was all she wrote.
The Pirates offense was able to get guys on base throughout the night but thanks in part to the double play and some really shoddy base running by Starling Marte they all went for not.
Stealing a win last night would have been huge as the Pirates continue to face tough pitching from the Cubs, but the offense just couldn't get that clutch hit. I mean it isn't completely their fault but they left nine guys on base and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. One hit could have put a little more pressure on the Cubs and they weren't able to do it. That was unfortunate.