The Cubs got off to a great start Saturday night at PNC Park, taking a seven-run lead to back up a terrific debut by starter Jordan Wicks. Pittsburgh made a big run against Chicago’s bullpen in the middle innings to make things close before the road team built their advantage back up and captured the win.
Things weren’t looking great for Wicks right off the bat, literally, as he gave up a leadoff home run to Ke’Bryan Hayes to begin his MLB career. A walk and a single put two on with nobody out and prompted a meeting with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. Whatever Hottovy said must have worked, because the young left-hander proceeded to strike out the side.
The Cubs took advantage of wild Pirates reliever Osvaldo Bido to take the lead in the top of the 3rd inning. Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks to put their team in front and a groundout by Cody Bellinger made it a 3-1 game.
Wicks absolutely rolled after the opening frame, retiring 15 consecutive hitters with nine strikeouts. The North Siders appeared to blow the game wide-open in the 5th against Bido, beginning with a two-run double off the bat of Happ.
Bellinger singled him home and then Seiya Suzuki smoked an RBI triple. Jeimer Candelario tacked on a base hit to make it an 8-1 Cubs advantage. They were cruising to an easy victory until relief pitcher Hayden Wesneski came apart in the bottom of the 7th.
Wesneski had major control problems and was forced to throw pitches down the middle when he fell behind in the count. Pittsburgh hitters jumped on them with three consecutive singles to cut the lead to 8-4. Mark Leiter Jr. came on and surrendered a two-run double to Bryan Reynolds before mercifully bringing the inning to an end.
Chicago got two huge insurance tallies on a two-bagger from Suzuki in the 9th. Daniel Palencia walked a couple of hitters in the bottom of the frame and Adbert Alzolay was forced to get the last out to save the 10-6 victory. (Box score)
Leiter went out and pitched a 1-2-3 8th to preserve the Cubs’ 8-6 edge and give them time to add on the following inning.
Why the Cubs Won
They got a good start and plenty of offense which was just enough to overcome a pretty shaky performance by the bottom of the bullpen.
Stats That Matter
- Wicks had the best debut by a Cub starter since Mark Prior: 5 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 9 K, and 1 BB.
- Happ absolutely loves to play in his hometown with three more RBI Saturday.
- Suzuki is driving the ball with authority and it is nice to see.
It was a huge boost to the Cubs to have such a terrific performance from Wicks. If he can do anything close to this consistently it would be a crucial help to an undermanned rotation down the stretch. Chicago may also have a bit of an issue with some of their lower-leverage relievers because things should never have gotten that close. The important thing is they won another game as they fight for the postseason.