Extra! Extra! Cubs Win–Cubs 2 Pirates 1 (11 innings)
Sunday at 7:44 pm
Turnabout is fair play. Certainly couldn’t hurt with the Cub lineup posting at least three runs in every game to start the season. Jon Lester was solid again. The Cubs received another quality start and banked another victory in the abbreviated season. This time though the bullpen was solid for five shutout innings to give the lineup a chance to grab a walkoff win.
The Pirates took the early lead with Kevin Newman’s one out bomb. A walk and a single gave the Buccos a chance at a crooked number, but Lester locked in to keep the Pirates to a 1-0 lead. Lester found his command into the start and was dominate for five scoreless frames. Lester left with the score tied, but the Cubs bats were largely neutralized by the Pirates bullpen day.
Steven Brault was pressed into service and he set down all nine batters he faced in three scoreless innings. Chad Kuhl then retired the next three batters to get into the fifth inning with a perfect game going. Willson Contreras ripped a double to get the Cubs first hit and Kuhl began to struggle with a finger issue. Kyle Schwarber then drove the ball into the wall to tie the ballgame. Kuhl would tough out another couple batters retiring one. Geoff Hartlieb retired the next two to keep the game level at one
Then the bullpens took over the game fully in the seventh inning with Casey Sadler pitching a perfect frame. Sadler pitched the eighth. Sadler managed to get two outs but allowed two runners to reach. Dan Winkler punched out Colin Moran to end the inning.
The Cubs offense was largely dormant the afternoon. Dovydas Neverauskas, Nik Turley, and Richard Rodriguez combined to keep the Cubs from reaching scoring position in three scoreless innings. The Cubs bullpen managed to keep pace with the Pirates. Dan Winkler worked around a leadoff walk to keep the score 1-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
And then the rains opened up and delayed the game for over an hour.
When the game restarted lefty Sam Howard was on the mound for the Pirates. He worked around a two out walk to Kyle Schwarber to send the Cubs into their first extra inning game of 2020. That meant the first look up close at the new rules for extra innings. Jacob Stallings was out at second to start the tenth. Pinch hitter Josh Bell hit a solid single into left field against Ryan Tepera. Kyle Schwarber threw an ace to Willson Contreras to nab the slow footed catcher trying to score on the play. Tepera retired the next two batters and the game headed to the bottom of the tenth.
Ian Happ drew a leadoff walk with Steven Souza Jr. on second. Souza Jr. was able to take third on a play where the third baseman crashed too hard on the potential bunt from Nico Hoerner, but Howard punched out Hoerner. He then struck out Albert Almora Jr. before David Bote hit a pop fly caught in foul territory.
Jeremy Jeffress pitched the top of the eleventh and continued his trend of being the stopper in the pen. Jose Osuna bounced the ball right to Javier Baez but Kevin Newman attempted to reach third on the play for some reason. He was caught fairly easily for the first out. Colin Moran flew out and Jarrod Dyson grounded out to end the inning.
Cody Ponce made his major league debut in the bottom of the eleventh. Anthony Rizzo drove the ball deep enough to move David Bote to third. Javier Baez then ripped the ball straight up the middle through the drawn in infield. The offense delivered their first walkoff win in 2020.
The Cubs lineup was largely silent. A day that was meant for offense with the wind blowing out for most of the afternoon, but the Pirates found a way to keep the Cubs bats off the board for nine innings. Unfortunately for the Pirates the game was eleven innings long.
The game really hinged on the depleted Pirates pitching staff having to piece together nine innings. Steven Brault was really good, and pitched as deep into the game as was possible. That meant it was up to Chad Kuhl to cool the Cubs hot bats. It worked for one inning but as he gutted through a finger injury the Cubs bats melted Chad Kuhl’s hot pitching. Or something like this.