Joel Hanrahan’s ninth inning against the Cubs this afternoon was painful to watch. Very painful. But the Pirates’ seven-game losing streak is over.
Hanrahan entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 7-4 lead, but quickly gave up a double to Joe Mather and walked Darwin Barney. He got the first out of the inning after Anthony Rizzo flew out to right field, but then Alfonso Soriano singled to left to score Mather. After Starlin Castro flew out to right-center for the second out of the frame, Hanrahan walked consecutive batters to force in a run. But just before you could say, “here we go again,” Hanrahan struck out Dave Sappelt swinging to eke out a 7-6 victory. Ugly wins are better than an eighth straight loss.
Wandy Rodriguez allowed three runs (one earned) over six innings in the victory while Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with a homer and two walks. The National League MVP candidate has four home runs in his last six games and 28 on the year. Neil Walker went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in his first start since August 26.
The Pirates now sit at 73-71 on the year, 2 1/2 games back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. They need nine wins in their final 18 games to ensure their first winning season since 1992.
Johnny Cueto continued to bolster his case for the National League Cy Young award this afternoon against the Cubs, giving up two runs over eight innings as part of a 5-3 victory in the first game of a doubleheader. Cueto is now the National League’s first 16-game winner. David Price of the Rays got there on Thursday in the American League.
Cueto gave up just three hits while striking out eight, walking one and hitting a batter. The 26-year-old right-hander served up a two-run home run to Alfonso Soriano in the top of the first inning, but he held the Cubs scoreless the rest of the way, including retiring 19 out of the last 20 batters he faced. He’s now second in the National League behind Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann with a 2.44 ERA and owns an excellent 135/37 K/BB ratio over 169 2/3 innings.
Cueto got his help on offense from Todd Frazier, Xavier Paul and Miguel Cairo, who all launched homers off Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Frazier later added a sacrifice fly for some insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning. The 26-year-old rookie is on an incredible roll right now, hitting .515 (17-for-33) with four home runs and 11 RBI over his last night games.
Things got a little tense in the ninth inning, as Aroldis Chapman gave up his first run since June 24 on a two-out bloop single to left field by Welington Castillo. However, he was able to bounce back to strike out Joe Mather swinging to strand the tying runs on base and notch his 29th save of the season. The hit by Castillo ended a scoreless streak of 23 consecutive outings for Chapman. The hard-throwing left-hander also had a 33-game scoreless streak earlier this season.
The National League Central-leading Reds will look for their third straight victory tonight when they send the newly-promoted Todd Redmond to the hill against Cubs left-hander Brooks Raley. As Peter Gammons noted earlier this afternoon, this will be the first time that the Reds have used someone other than Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey or Mike Leake to start a game this season.
It’s just Ryan Dempster’s luck: he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings versus Pittsburgh on Friday and then fell to 0-3 anyway.
The Cubs racked up 10 hits tonight, yet lost 1-0 to drop their 10th straight game and fall to 15-30 on the season. They were the first team since the Dodgers last June 18 to get shutout in a game with at least 10 hits.
Dempster has now made eight starts and posted a 2.14 ERA, but he’s still looking for his first victory. Twice he’s left with leads, only to watch the bullpen blow them. The Cubs are 1-7 in his outings.
The Cubs tried shaking up their lineup a bit tonight, moving Starlin Castro out of the third spot for the first time this season and going with Joe Mather in his place. Castro, hitting second, had two hits, as did Mather, but they didn’t come at the right time.