PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates didn't get mad. They didn't get even, either.Manager Clint Hurdle said before Tuesday's game that he felt the best form of retribution for Anthony Rizzo sliding into Elias Diaz at home plate in Monday's loss to the Cubs would be to come out and beat them.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates didn't get mad. They didn't get even, either.
Manager Clint Hurdle said before Tuesday's game that he felt the best form of retribution for Anthony Rizzo sliding into Elias Diaz at home plate in Monday's loss to the Cubs would be to come out and beat them. However, Pittsburgh's bullpen continued to struggle and gave up an early three-run lead in an 8-6 loss at PNC Park.
The Pirates started strong and rallied late, as Starling Marte drove in a pair of runs in the ninth with a single to center field. But Pittsburgh allowed three runs in the seventh, two more in the eighth and ultimately stranded the tying run on first base. The Pirates have now lost four straight and nine of their last 11.
"I like the fight at the end," Hurdle said. "However, the game wasn't complete. We didn't play well enough at the end, and at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. We've got to get better. The game's showing us where we need to get better."
Diaz got his own form of revenge against the Cubs in his first at-bat, connecting on a first-pitch fastball and driving it 420 feet, according to Statcast™, to left-center field to give the Pirates a three-run lead in the second inning.
But Rizzo continued to be a thorn in the Pirates' side, going 2-for-3 with the game-tying homer off reliever Edgar Santana in the seventh inning. Santana had been a bright spot in Pittsburgh's struggling bullpen, making 13 straight scoreless appearances since April 25. But he surrendered two more runs on three hits after Rizzo's homer and recorded only two outs before being taken out.
The bullpen's issues continued in the eighth as righty Michael Feliz gave up a leadoff double to Benjamin Zobrist, followed immediately by a two-run homer by Kyle Schwarber to provide insurance the Cubs would need.
"We're missing spots big time," Hurdle said. "The left-handed batters barreled the ball up the entire game. They were able to put up good at-bats against [starter Nick] Kingham, good at-bats against Santana, good at-bats against Feliz. Extra-base hits, balls hit hard. We missed location way too often tonight."
Zobrist trimmed the Cubs' early deficit with a two-run homer to right field off of Kingham in the fifth, but the Pirates responded in the bottom of the frame as 23-year-old Austin Meadows became the first left-handed batter to hit a home run off Jonathan Lester this season. Lester got even in the sixth, driving in Jason Heyward with a single to right field that knocked out Kingham.
Tyler Glasnow got the Pirates out of a jam in the sixth inning, but they lost the lead in the seventh and fell further behind in the eighth. The ninth provided a bright spot for the relief corps, however. Closer Felipe Vazquez, who had blown three straight saves coming into Tuesday, worked a perfect inning on 11 pitches. Vazquez hoped that his bounce-back outing might help turn things around for the whole bullpen.
"I think starting from me, they see me struggle and not saving games like I'm supposed to," Vazquez said. "I think they were trying to do too much. Now that I'm feeling OK, we're going to be back in a little bit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rizzo connected on Santana's 1-1 slider that tailed inside and drove it into the glove of a fan wearing Cubs blue who appeared to lean over the railing in the right-field stands. Meadows, who was in right field, watched the play unfold and immediately threw his hands up in the air to indicate that the Pirates should challenge the call. The umpires initiated a replay review to determine if there was fan interference, but the game-tying homer stood.
"Immediately I thought that the fan reached over," Meadows said. "I thought that it was going to hit that fence. I think the replay showed that it was a homer, but it was close. So it was definitely arguable."
One day after sitting out due to minor irritation in his left forearm, Vazquez threw his five fastest pitches of the season on Tuesday, per Statcast™, including his first four of 100 mph or better.
"The ball was flying out of my hand," Vazquez said. "I knew that I was not even pushing too hard. It was just easing up on my mechanics and letting the arm flow. The first one, I knew I was feeling OK."
HE SAID IT
"I came out today to play some baseball with no intent, like trying to make sure I got a home run. ... I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy any home run. My goal today was to come out and just play good baseball." -- Diaz, though interpreter Mike Gonzalez, on homering in his first at-bat
Right-hander Joe Musgrove will follow up his brilliant Pirates debut against the Cubs on Wednesday at PNC Park. In his first start for Pittsburgh last Friday, Musgrove hurled seven shutout innings on just 67 pitches against the Cardinals. He'll be opposed by righty Kyle Hendricks at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.