Pirates 9, Cubs 3: History averted, and another rough one for The Professor

Well, the weather was nice.

Kyle Hendricks had another one of those bad outings we’ve seen too often this year, but honestly that didn’t matter because Paul Skenes lived up to his billing as the No. 1 overall pick just last summer. Skenes struck out the first seven Cubs, 11 overall, and didn’t give up a hit in his six innings (100 pitches) of work. The Cubs scored a few consolation runs off the Pirates bullpen, but it all added up to a 9-3 defeat. The Cubs still haven’t lost more than two in a row this year, but… they better get things together soon or that little piece of trivia is going away.

Hendricks threw pretty well for the first two innings. He got weak contact and ground balls and generally looked solid. It all fell apart in the third, and by the time Kyle left with two out in the fifth, he’d allowed 11 hits and eight runs (seven earned). Personally I’d run him out again when his turn comes up next week, but if this keeps up…

Meanwhile, Skenes was literally unhittable for the first seven Cubs batters, as they all struck out, all but one swinging. So that did this:

Then the Cubs did hit the ball, a bit, but all for outs. They didn’t hit a ball out of the infield off Skenes until Christopher Morel flied to left to begin the fifth inning, and that was the only baseball hit out of the infield off Skenes.

He wasn’t going past the sixth inning, not with 100 pitches thrown, so it would be up to the Bucs bullpen to try for a no-hitter. Before I tell you about that, there’s more stuff about Skenes:

Well, yikes. Plus, these from BCB’s JohnW53:

Wilson Alvarez of the White Sox, in 1991, and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox, in 2007, pitched no-hitters in their second big league starts.

Stoney McGlynn of the Cardinals gave up no hits in seven innings in his second start, in 1906. Phil Hughes of the Yankees gave up none in 6⅓ in 2007.

Then comes Paul Skenes’ six innings against the Cubs today.

Three more pitchers left after five hitless innings in their second start: Bobby Witt of the Rangers in 1986, Devern Hansack of the Red Sox in 2006 and Dane Dunning of the White Sox in 2020.

That makes a total of eight pitchers who threw at least five innings in start No. 2 without allowing a hit.

The Cubs broke up the no-no off Carmen Mlodzinski with two out in the seventh on this looping single to right by Morel [VIDEO].

That kept this streak going:

Then the Cubs put together a rally in the eighth, all with two out and nobody on base. Miguel Amaya smacked a homer into the left-field bleachers [VIDEO].

Mike Tauchman followed with a single and Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger walked to load the bases — shades of all the walks Pirates pitchers gave to Cubs hitters last Saturday. Incidentally, Happ’s walk extended his on-base streak vs. the Pirates to 64 games, that’s the longest streak ever by any player against a single team.

Morel doubled in a pair [VIDEO].

So… three runs are in and there are runners on second and third and a base hit would actually have made this a game, but Michael Busch struck out to end the inning.

I was a bit puzzled by the use of Hector Neris in the ninth. It’s true that Neris had not thrown since Sunday, but with newcomer Porter Hodge in the pen, why not give Hodge an inning in a low-leverage situation? Neris did retire the Pirates scoreless after a leadoff single. Here, look, another Cubs highlight I can show you — a nice diving grab by Happ for the first out in the ninth [VIDEO].

The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth and that was that. The two stories here are Hendricks and what’s going to happen next with him, and Skenes. From the Cubs point of view I’m sure they’re glad they won’t have to face him again for a couple months, and eventually I’m sure MLB hitters will figure him out, to some extent. But the guy is good, REALLY good. Look at his pitch report and all the 100 mile per hour pitches [VIDEO].

One last note from BCB’s JohnW53:

The Cubs have now lost four straight games at home to the Pirates: the final two last year and the first two this year.

They had not lost more than three in a row since they dropped five straight, June 21-22 and Sept. 5-7, 2014.

That’s definitely not good and makes it pretty imperative that the Cubs take the final two games of this series and come out with a series split.

Saturday afternoon, the Cubs have their own ace, Shōta Imanaga, taking the mound, and lefthander Bailey Falter will go for the Pirates. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.

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