A potentially volatile situation between the Pirates and the Cubs never developed Tuesday, so now their attention turns to their series finale at PNC Park on Wednesday, when Chicago will look for a sweep and Pittsburgh will try to climb out of a slump.
In an 8-6 Chicago win Tuesday, Pirates catcher Elias Diaz hit a homer, as did Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Any one-upmanship that brought seemed to be the extent of carryover from Monday’s controversial play, when Rizzo took out Diaz sliding into home on a force play and successfully broke up a double play.
The umpires called Rizzo safe and ruled Rizzo did not do anything illegal, while the Pirates were insistent that Rizzo went out of his way to take out Diaz’s legs. Major League Baseball on Tuesday backed the Pirates and said Rizzo’s slide was illegal.
But there was no retaliation Tuesday, only three homers in a 14-hit attack by the Cubs, who feasted on Pirates relievers.
“We’re missing spots big-time,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his bullpen.
Pittsburgh (28-26) has lost four straight and nine of 11, and dropped to fourth in the National League Central, while Chicago (29-22) has won three in a row and four of five and moved into second in the division.
Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will face Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.16 ERA) on Wednesday.
Musgrove could be a slump-buster, based on what he did Friday. In his first start of the season and with the Pirates, Musgrove pitched seven scoreless, five-hit innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks, and 50 of his 67 pitches were strikes in an 8-1 victory over St. Louis.
“(That is) kind of the way I wanted to come out. I’ve had plenty of time to get myself right and get things where they need to be,” said Musgrove, who was acquired from Houston in the offseason but started the year on the disabled list because of a right shoulder strain. “This is the pitcher I wanted to show them, and I was able to do that. It’s a good feeling.”
In his only start against the Cubs, Musgrove gave up two runs in six innings in a 2-0 loss Sept. 9, 2016, while he was with the Astros.
One thing could hinder Musgrove. Coming from the American League and not being familiar with NL players, he said he relied heavily on catcher Francisco Cervelli, but Cervelli has missed the past three games because of flu symptoms. It’s not known whether Cervelli will be available Wednesday or whether Diaz will catch again.
Hendricks is coming off a strong start, too. And the one before that, and the one before that … He has eight straight starts with three or fewer earned runs allowed.
Most recently, Hendricks gave up just a solo homer and one other hit in seven innings Friday in a 6-2 victory over San Francisco. As good as he was leading up to that game, he thought he was even more consistent Friday.
“I made better pitches,” Hendricks said. “In the past, I was throwing about the same, but too many bad pitches.”
He is 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 career starts against Pittsburgh.