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Pirates hit into 7 double plays in another 1-0 loss to Cubs

September 3, 2018
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Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison makes a diving stop on a ball hit by the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist during the first inning Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, at PNC Park.

A passing rainstorm caused a nearly two-hour delay to the start of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ game Friday against the Chicago Cubs.

The deluge really began once the game started. A downpour of double plays -- seven in all, tying a team record -- led to a 1-0 loss, their second by that score to the first-place Cubs in as many nights, in front of 24,298 fans at PNC Park. The Pirates (61-62), who lost for the ninth time in 13 games to slip below .500 for the first time since July 19, were shut out for the fifth time since the All-Star Break as their wild-card hopes continued to dwindle.

“We couldn’t find dirt (or) grass,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They made plays. They’ve got a good defense. They’ve had a good defense all year in the infield. It just goes to show you the benefit of a well-executed pitch in certain situations.”

Getting runners on base proved no issue. The Pirates just couldn’t keep them there.

Despite putting 11 runners on base against Cubs starter Cole Hamels and relievers Brandon Kintzler, Jorge de la Rosa, Steve Cishek and Jesse Chavez, the Pirates couldn’t do anything with them. Hamels allowed eight baserunners but induced five double plays, two from Josh Bell and one apiece from Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and David Freese.

Pinch-hitter Adam Frazier lined into a double play to second base off de la Rosa to end the eighth inning, and Freese put a capper on the night with a game-ending double play in the ninth, when the Pirates put the winning run on first. The Pirates tied their team record of seven double plays hit into, previously set June 16, 1994, in a 7-5 win at St. Louis. Their scoreless streak reached 23 innings.

“You never want to be that guy that rolls into one or hits into one,” Dickerson said. “But sometimes it’s out of your control. You can’t really place the ball sometimes, and Cole pitched a really good game. He’s been around a long time, and he’s probably one of the best out there. That’s why he’s still doing what he’s doing.”

Trevor Williams (10-9) became the second consecutive tough-luck loser on the mound for the Pirates. Continuing a recent stretch of strong performances, Williams limited the Cubs to one run on four hits over seven innings, striking out four.

Like Ivan Nova in Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Cubs, one pitch did in Williams: a two-out, solo home run by Kyle Schwarber over the Clemente Wall in right field in the top of the second inning. Other than that, Williams kept the Cubs at bay, inducing a pair of double plays himself and pitching effectively up in the zone.

“Baseball is weird, man,” Williams said. “For all the hops to go the right way for them tonight, they had guys in the right spots. It was tough. I felt like we had a lot more loud outs, and it was just tough. The ball bounces their way sometimes.”

Relievers Kyle Crick and Keone Kela each worked around a pair of baserunners to pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth inning, respectively.

But the bats were a problem, again.

Hamels (8-9), acquired by the Cubs from the Texas Rangers in advance of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, beat the Pirates for the second time since the trade. Double plays ended the first, third, sixth and seventh innings against the Cubs left-hander.

Even when the Pirates managed to keep their runners on base, they didn’t get them across the plate, as Bell’s warning-track fly ball to right stranded runners on first and third to end the fourth inning. Colin Moran hit a one-out single to left in the eighth off Kintzler, but pinch-runner Kevin Newman was doubled off first base after Frazier lined to second baseman Ben Zobrist.

Dickerson led off the ninth with a single off Cishek and moved to second base on a wild pitch. Starling Marte struck out, and Polanco walked against Chavez to bring up Freese. He grounded to third baseman David Bote, who stepped on the base and threw to first for the game-ending -- and record-tying -- double play.

“Nobody likes it,” Hurdle said. “Guys are up there battling. There’s not one guy there that wanted to hit into a double play when he did. They’re trying to look for balls over the plate. Whether we clipped them or not ... I’ll have a better feeling for what we were doing offensively later. And unfortunately, sometimes the game gets you.”

The Pirates are 6.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League’s second wild card spot.

“There’s still the wild-card push that we can make, and it’s really our destiny,” Williams said. “It’s out in front of us. We’ve just got to win some ballgames from here on out.

“It was a great pitching matchup, a 1-0 ballgame. It was a marquee pitching matchup, but it was just one of those things (of) whoever blinks first. I gave up a solo homer, and that was it tonight, unfortunately for us.”

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