PITTSBURGH -- Solo home runs single-handedly led the Cubs to victories on the first two nights of their four-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park. On Sunday, it was a solo homer off the bat of Adam Frazier that handed them their second straight defeat, 2-1.Tied with two outs
PITTSBURGH -- Solo home runs single-handedly led the Cubs to victories on the first two nights of their four-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park. On Sunday, it was a solo homer off the bat of Adam Frazier that handed them their second straight defeat, 2-1.
Tied with two outs in the 11th inning, Brandon Kintzler's 3-0 offering to Frazier was sent over the right-center-field fence off the right-hander.
Despite compiling 27 hits through four games, Chicago produced just four runs over 38 innings -- all coming via solo homers. They were unable to capitalize with men on, stranding 33 total runners while going 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
"We have to get our offense straightened out," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I can't make any excuses for them either. We just have to get better. But we did pitch. We played great defense. We did a lot of really good things. We just didn't hit the baseball."
Leading off the second inning, Kyle Schwarber hit a 3-2 fastball from Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon and just missed wrapping it around the left-field foul pole. Schwarber connected on Taillon's next pitch -- a hanging slider over the middle of the plate -- and drove it 412 feet into the right-field seats to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Left-hander Jose Quintana stifled Pittsburgh's offense through five innings, but he served up a leadoff single to Corey Dickerson and walk to Starling Marte to put two on with nobody out in the sixth. Two pitches into the next at-bat, Quintana gave up an RBI double to Gregory Polanco to tie the game at 1 and end his outing.
Quintana finished with four strikeouts and a pair of walks over five-plus innings.
"He was throwing the ball well, and then you get to that spot in the game where we're not scoring runs," Maddon said. "We had to get proactive right there. Bullpen did an outstanding job. Q was good. The whole pitching staff, we've been good the whole series."
After lifting Quintana, the Cubs turned to right-hander C.J. Edwards, who induced a ground ball from David Freese that resulted in Marte being nabbed at the plate for the first out of the inning. After walking Elias Diaz to load the bases, Edwards forced back-to-back flyouts from Josh Bell and Josh Harrison to escape the jam unscathed.
Edwards, southpaw Justin Wilson and right-handers Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop combined to allow three hits over five scoreless innings to keep Chicago in the game heading to the 11th inning.
The Cubs go into Monday's off-day with a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Brewers in the National League Central. They return to action against the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park to open a stretch of 23 games in as many days.
"You can't be panicked by the fact that we just had four games where we just scored one run," Schwarber said. "All teams probably go through the stretch. … No one's panicked. It's just -- I think -- we're ready to have this off-day, get refocused and get ready for this next series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Albert Almora Jr. came to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning with two outs and the bases loaded. He worked a 2-2 count from Pirates right-hander Richard Rodriguez, but he was called out on strikes on a 93.3-mph fastball away to keep the score tied at 1.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth inning, prompting the Cubs to bring in right fielder Benjamin Zobrist to serve as a fifth infielder. The move paid off when Dickerson swung at a first-pitch fastball from Strop and hit into a rare inning-ending 4-9-3 double play.
"It seems like every time they do something crazy like that, it works out for them," said Frazier, who was on first base and forced out at second on the double play. "That was tough. He hit it on the screws right at him. Credit to them. It worked out, then the game kept going."
HE SAID IT
"I thought we were [getting better], and then we kind of slipped backwards a little bit. It's a mental thing more than it is physical. It's not going to require more batting practice. It doesn't require more video. It requires the plan at the plate, trusting yourself, using the whole field. That kind of thing is what it requires. Not extra work this time of the year. Extra swings are not going to get it done." -- Maddon, on the Cubs' offensive woes
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With two outs and the game tied at 1 in the seventh inning, Marte lined a double to left field. Pirates rookie Kevin Newman, who was pinch-running for Colin Moran, attempted to score from first base on the hit. He was thrown out as Schwarber corralled the ball and relayed to Javier Baez, who fired home to Willson Contreras for the out. The Pirates challenged the play at the plate, but the call on the field was confirmed.
"We were throwing it out there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There haven't been many calls reversed at home plate this year. … Obviously, nothing happened."
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will take the mound in the first leg of a two-game set with the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT. Hendricks is 3-0 in his last four starts, allowing 12 earned runs over 24 2/3 innings. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will start for the Detroit.
Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.