With his spot in the rotation probably on the line, Brandon Cumpton turned in maybe his best start of the season for the Pirates. He held the Cubs to just two hits in seven shutout innings, striking out four and walking two. The Cubs really only threatened against him in the sixth inning, when they put two runners on base with only one out. He worked out of that jam, though, and cruised through the seventh. He probably even could’ve pitched an eighth inning, since he got through the first seven on just 87 pitches.
Pulling him out of the game after seven actually created a horrifying sort of slow-motion replay of last Sunday, when Vance Worley pitched seven shutout innings and was pulled with a relatively low pitch count, only to watch the bullpen blow the lead. Tony Watson came in in the eighth and promptly put two runners on base, but got out of the jam when Rick Renteria handed him an out by using a pitcher to pinch-bunt, then striking out two pinch hitters. Can you think of a bigger disaster inning for a manager than getting the first two runners on base, then using a pitcher to pinch-bunt, then bringing up Wellington Castillo and Justin Ruggiano to pinch-hit for the first two hitters in your lineup, only to have them both strike out? If Clint Hurdle did this, I would be beyond apoplectic. I would have sworn Pirate baseball off for at least 24 hours. My twitter feed would be full of profanities and capital letters. I probably would’ve written a one-sentence recap telling Hurdle to go have intimate relations with himself.
Anyway, Mark Melancon got into a bit of trouble in the ninth inning that was aided by some hairy defense from Josh Harrison, but the bullpen more or less put this win away, which gets the Pirates two of three from the Cubs. That’s pretty much exactly where they need to be, so long as they keep on taking two of three against the other lousy teams up ahead of them on the schedule.
The only other thing to note from this game is that the offense was pretty awful (Travis Snider hit a solo homer then was immediately followed by a Chris Stewart walk, then station-to-station advancement with two outs, then a Josh Harrison single). Really, I’m OK with that, though. As I’ve been saying for a while now, I’m not so concerned about the offense as I am about the pitching managing to get enough good outings together to put some tallies in the win column. Brandon Cumpton and Vance Worley made good starts to close out the weekend, and the Pirates have two wins in a row. On to Tampa Bay.