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Cubs fall, but playoff magic number dips to 1

Chicago bats stay silent against Archer as Pirates cruise
September 24, 2018

CHICAGO -- There's something about the Pirates that is bringing out the least amount of offense in the Cubs, and it's happening at an inopportune time.Pablo Reyes smacked a three-run homer to back Chris Archer and lead the Pirates to a 6-0 victory on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, spoiling

CHICAGO -- There's something about the Pirates that is bringing out the least amount of offense in the Cubs, and it's happening at an inopportune time.
Pablo Reyes smacked a three-run homer to back Chris Archer and lead the Pirates to a 6-0 victory on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, spoiling any celebration for another day.
"We've grinded it out this whole year," Chicago starter Mike Montgomery said. "We know what we're facing, and we have to just chalk this one up as a loss and move on."
The start of the game was delayed 55 minutes because of rain, which was long enough for the Brewers to open a 6-0 lead against the Cardinals en route to a 12-4 win in St. Louis. The Cubs' lead in the National League Central is now a half-game over the Brewers and the magic number to win the division remains at five, while the postseason magic number is one. The Cubs and Brewers each have 91 wins.
"We have a resilient bunch of guys," Montgomery said. "We know where we're at and it's kind of a little bit of motivation. We've got to bring it these last five games. I think our guys know that. We're not going to get discouraged. We're going to regroup and get ready for [Wednesday]."
In the Cubs' four-game series at PNC Park on Aug. 16-19, and again on Monday night, they scored one run in each game. On Tuesday night, they couldn't even muster that. Chicago began the day leading the NL with a .259 batting average, but the club is hitting .232 in September, and, even worse, just .174 in its last eight home games, posting a 3-5 record in that stretch.

"Our offense has been very inconsistent," manager Joe Maddon said. "'Archie' was good, but we've just got to fight through that, especially at this time of the year. The top of the order did OK. We just have to get a more consistent result from the entire group in order to win these kind of games. We had opportunities, they went away. The offense really has to ascend right now."
Archer, who will celebrate his 30th birthday on Wednesday, made it tough, limiting the Cubs to four hits over six innings.
What are the Pirates doing?
"Execution. Just execution," Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. "The game plan is set. We figure we've seen them enough. We know where we need to go. Now we need to get it there. We've been able to get it there."
The Cubs had a chance in the first when they had runners at first and third with two outs, but Archer struck out Kyle Schwarber on a slider to end that threat. Archer fanned Schwarber and pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella to leave two more baserunners stranded in the sixth. Chicago went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, leaving seven on-base.
The Cubs have five games remaining and their resiliency will be tested.
"I think that what this club has done a really good job of is washing off a poor performance, which is unfortunately what we've had the last two nights," second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "We'll go home, we'll sleep up, we'll see our families, and see if we can come in [Wednesday] and play a little bit better."
The Cubs have scored one or fewer runs in four straight home games for the first time since June 23-26, 1989. They've been held to one or fewer runs in 11 of their last 17 losses.
Kristopher Bryant was hit on the left wrist by a pitch from Archer in the fourth inning, but he stayed in the game. However, Bryant was replaced on defense in the Pirates' sixth because of a left wrist contusion. X-rays taken were negative, but Bryant is not expected to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday. More >

"I would imagine [Wednesday] is not going to feel really good," Maddon said of Bryant. "I'm going to plan on him not playing as of right now."
"We're coming down to the end. Five games left, if I'm not mistaken. Half-game lead -- like I said, I think a lot of ballclubs would sign up for this. I know I would have about six weeks ago wearing a different uniform. It's all about the lens you look at it through. These are important ballgames, obviously." -- Murphy
"We're not happy. It's really coming down to the one component of the game we just haven't been good at recently and that's offense. You have to be careful because guys start pressing even more. We need to hopefully get on top early or sooner, and not permit them to get the lead and then play their game. They've been hitting the ball all over the place at will. Everything they hit well finds the grass, everything we hit well finds the glove. Our concept of scoring first is pretty important. We have to grab the lead and hold onto it." -- Maddon
Anthony Rizzo was at first base with one out in the Cubs' sixth when Javier Baez hit a grounder to third baseman Jose Osuna. Baez was called out at first, but the Cubs challenged the ruling, and after a review, the call was overturned.

Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.11 ERA) will start the third game of this four-game series against the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Quintana took the loss in his last outing against the White Sox, giving up five runs over five innings. He faced the Pirates on Aug. 19 and gave up one run on four hits over five innings. Righty Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.01 ERA) will start for the Bucs.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.