Cubs lose 7th straight, on brink of elimination
By JOHN PERROTTO Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The freefalling Chicago Cubs committed five errors, including two in a seven-run seventh inning, and moved to the brink of elimination with a 9-2 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night that extended their losing streak to seven.
Chicago dropped to 82-75 and would be eliminated with one more loss or Milwaukee win. The Cubs have not missed the playoffs since 2014.
Aided by a fielding error by second baseman Ben Zobrist and errant throw by reliever Danny Hultzen, the Pirates sent 13 batters to the plate in the seventh as they chased starter Kyle Hendricks and erased a 1-0 deficit. Pittsburgh stopped a nine-game losing streak in which it had been outscored 87-26.
Hendricks didn't allow any hits until the sixth and any runs until the seventh.
The first five batters had hits in the big inning and the sixth reached on Zobrist's error. Colin Moran's RBI single tied the score, Kevin Kramer hit a two-run double for a 3-1 lead and two runs scored when Zobrist couldn't handle Erik Gonzalez's grounder for an error.
Hultzen threw wide of second base in attempting to get a forceout, and Adam Frazier capped the outburst with a run-scoring double.
Hendricks (11-10) allowed six runs — five earned — and six hits in six-plus innings.
Kyle Schwarber hit two doubles for Chicago and rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner drove in both runs with a double in the fourth inning and a single in the eighth. Hoerner also made the first two errors of young career.
Gonzale hit a two-run homer in the eighth, his first home run in 123 plate appearances this season.
Francisco Liriano (5-3) pitched a perfect seventh. Pittsburgh rookie Mitch Keller gave up one run and seven hits in five innings.
Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta served a one-game from suspension for what MLB called "inappropriate conduct" during a replay review in Saturday's game against St. Louis.
Loretta put on the headset that connects the umpiring crew chief to the review center in New York. Only umpires are permitted to use the headsets.
"I thought it was funny, but Major League Baseball didn't," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Hey, nobody died."
With San Francisco's Bruce Bochy and Kansas City's Ned Yost set to retire at the end of the season, Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle will become the longest-tenured manager in the major leagues with his current club. Hurdle began in 2011 and is finishing his ninth year. However, it is not certain Hurdle will return in 2020 despite two years remaining on his contract. The Pirates are assured of finishing last in the NL Central for the first time since 2010.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (sprained right ankle) did not play after being injured Sunday against St. Louis. He underwent an MRI on Monday that showed no structural damage. Bryant was injured when he slipped on first base while unsuccessfully trying to beat out a double play. Two years ago, OF Bryce Harper, then playing for Washington, sustained a knee injury on the same type of play. "Maybe make the bases softer or something," Bryant said. "They should be able to come up with some type of solution." ... LHP Cole Hamels (left shoulder fatigue) threw a bullpen and could be possibly start Thursday night against the Pirates in the finale of three-game series. He was scratched from his scheduled start against the Cardinals last Friday. ... SS Javier Baez (broken left thumb) continues to have problems catching groundballs and remains limited to pinch hitting and pinch running.
Pirates: C Elias Diaz (right knee soreness) missed his second straight game.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (13-10, 4.51 ERA) will start Tuesday night. He is 3-1 with a 4.51 ERA in his last five outings.
Pirates: RHP Dario Agrazal (4-5, 5.08) is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA in his previous three starts.