PIRATES – CUBS REACTIONS
PITTSBURGH — The Pirates did not beat Jake Arrieta on Wednesday night but they at least gained some confidence that perhaps get the better of the Chicago Cubs right-hander should they face him in the National League wild card playoff game Oct. 7.
The Pirates lost 3-2 at PNC Park when Anthony Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly off reliever Vance Worley in the top of the 12th inning.
The loss dropped the Pirates four games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central as the Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-4 at Milwaukee. It also increased the Pirates’ chances of playing in the wild card game for the third straight season.
The Cubs stayed seven games behind the Cardinals in the division race but drew within three games of the Pirates for the first NL wild card and remained 7 ½ games in front of the San Francisco Giants for the second wild card. The Pirates hold a 10 ½-game lead over the Giants with 17 to play.
The Pirates, at least, had a moral victory by not losing to Arrieta, who missed a chance to become the first major league pitcher to win 20 games this season when he squandered a 2-0 lead in the late innings. Arrieta had won his last eight starts with a microscopic 0.46 ERA and was 13-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 15 starts since the first day of summer, June 21.
“We battled all the way to the end,” Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “He had his way early with us but that’s the makeup of this team. We keep grinding at bats and we put ourselves in a good situation there at the end and we tied it and gave us a chance to win.”
Arrieta took a shutout into the seventh but he allowed a run to score in that inning when he threw away Starling Marte’s comebacker with two outs for an error. The Pirates tied it in the eighth when Sean Rodriguez scored from third as Gregory Polanco grounded into an inning-ending reverse 4-3-4-2-5 double play with the bases loaded.
Arrieta was lifted after the eighth inning and he allowed two runs — one earned — and six hits while striking out five and walking one.
Arrieta threw 116 pitches and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle bristled when asked if his team could have scored more by being more patient in the later innings with the opponent’s pitch count rising.
“What you’ve got to look at is where the location of the pitch was,” Hurdle said. “If it’s a good pitch for the guy to hit, he’s going to fire at it. A hit sandwiched in there would have been nice. We faced one of the best pitchers in the game and we scratch and tie the game up. We trust our players.”
The Pirates and Cubs both insist they are not yet looking ahead to a potential wild card matchup with 2 ½ weeks remaining in the regular season. However, Arrieta has been tough on the Pirates in his career, going 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in eight starts.
“It was a fun game,” Mercer said. “We showed some resilience. We continued to fight and that’s what a lot of us are proud about. We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end and against a pitcher like that. That’s all you can ask for.”
–Right-hander A.J. Burnett took a shutout into the sixth inning in his second start since being activated from the disabled list. He was out from July 31-Sept. 9 with a strained flexor tendon in his left elbow.
Burnett lost the shutout and was also removed from the game when the Cubs scored twice in the sixth on an RBI double by Kris Bryant, who scored on Starling Castro’s squeeze bunt.
Burnett gave up two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.
“Any time you face a stud like that you want to go out and match him pitch for pitch,” Burnett said of facing Arrieta. “You expect a good game out of him but you know, my adrenaline is the same every game. I’m just trying to leave it all out there.
“I’d like to stay out of the stretch a little less and not have guys on base every inning. But I was able to make pitches early on. I couldn’t get one down to Bryant in the sixth but he’s the only guy I couldn’t make a pitch to all night.”
Mercer and the rest of the Pirates were thrilled by what they saw from Burnett, who allowed three runs in five innings to the Milwaukee Brewers last Thursday in his return from the DL.
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