Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Pirates 3
July, 7, 2013
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs made it back-to-back victories over the team with the best record in baseball, winning 4-3 in 11 innings Sunday over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
How it happened: Dioner Navarro hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the game-winner in the 11th. Cubs closer Kevin Gregg was one strike away from the victory in the ninth inning when the Pirates’ Starling Marte hit a game-tying home run. Scott Hairston hit a pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie. It was his eighth home run of the season. The bullpen teamed up to absorb the outing, which was left vacated when Scott Feldman was traded to the Baltimore Orioles last week. Carlos Villanueva got things started by allowing one run on three hits over four innings (69 pitches).
What it means: The Cubs might be 10 games under .500 but they have now won their fifth series in their last seven tries going back to June 14. In getting the best of the Astros in late June and now the Pirates, it was the first time the Cubs have won consecutive home series since August of last season when they topped the Astros and Rockies. The Cubs are now 38-48, four games better than they were after 86 games last season when they were 34-52.
In the bullpen: Carlos Marmol is long gone, but the late-inning bullpen issues are not a thing of the past. Gregg had converted each of his first 12 save opportunities, but now has two blown saves in the span of eight days. The Cubs bullpen now has a combined 18 blown saves this season, going 20-for-38 in those situations. The combined bullpen ERA of 4.18 at the start of play Sunday was 12th in the 15-team National League.
Outside the box: Darwin Barney’s 10th-inning error was his first of the season in 72 games. It also ended his 74-game errorless streak going back to last season. The National League Gold Glove winner tied a major-league single-season record last year when he went 141 consecutive games at second without an error. He was able to get the miscue out of his system quickly, though, starting a 4-6-3 double play one batter after his fielding error before making a tough play on a ball that glanced off pitcher Matt Guerrier.
Off beat: With Hairston’s shot, the Cubs have now hit a home run at Wrigley Field in 10 consecutive games. They also have hit home runs in 18 of their last 20 home games. The 55 home runs the Cubs had at Wrigley Field at the start of play Sunday were fourth best of any team in baseball. The Orioles, Rockies and Rangers were all tied for the most in the major leagues with 56 home runs at home. On the road, however, the Cubs’ 36 home runs were tied for the fifth fewest in baseball.
Up next: The Cubs will send Matt Garza (4-1, 3.45 ERA) to the mound Monday against the White Sox in a rescheduled game from a May 28 rain out. The White Sox will counter with left-hander Hector Santiago (3-5, 3.50) in the 7:05 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.