Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 9/9/12

The Pirates missed a bunch of opportunities and the Cubs made them pay with three long balls, as Chicago finished the weekend series sweep that was extremely disappointing for the home side.

Jeff Locke delivered a solid start. The Cubs punished two mistake pitches for solo homers, both in the fourth inning, but other than that he did a very nice job. Locke struck out six and didn’t walk anyone, and made it through six pretty strong innings while allowing seven hits (five singles and two homers).

That should have been good enough to earn Jeff his first big league win, but once again the Bucco offense sputtered. For the second game in a row, they struck in the first but fell silent afterwards. Andrew McCutchen pounded his first homer since mid-August to get the Bucs on the board quickly, and it seemed like the offense might romp against struggling rookie Chris Rusin. They’d get several more baserunners against Rusin (8 in 5 innings) but weren’t able to cash any more in. The Pirates were 0-for-11 on the day with runners in scoring position.

They finally tied the game without the benefit of a clutch hit. Brock Holt led off the seventh with a triple, and scored on a balk to tie the game. The Cubs’ ineptitude was helpful there, but the Pirates couldn’t muster anything else on their own even after McCutchen got to second with one out.

Just as he did Saturday, Jason Grilli came on to pitch in the tie game…and just as he did Saturday, he blew it. Grilli allowed a sharp leadoff single and then a bomb by Alfonso Soriano, quickly making it 4-2. Jason’s been great all year, but obviously had a brutal weekend and has struggled lately in tie games. I support the move to put him there and don’t think it’s anything other than a coincidence, but it’s certainly annoying.

Anyway, the Pirates still had a chance to come back. In the ninth, Carlos Marmol came on for the Cubs and we all know what kind of meltdown he’s capable of. It looked like he might be on the verge of one, as Holt lined a nice 0-2 single to lead off and Starling Marte walked. McCutchen popped out, but Garrett Jones walked to load the bases with only one out. The tying run was on second. Marmol bounced back, though, and struck out Gaby Sanchez and got Pedro Alvarez to fly out.

Brutal, unacceptable, awful, whatever you want to call this series, go for it. The Pirates dropped a game in the wild card hunt (now 2.5 back) and certainly looked nothing like a playoff team this weekend – just as they haven’t for about a month now. Still, there IS time left to make a move and we’ve seen this team (and all kinds of teams) play well in random spurts when we least expected it. I’m still holding out hope for another one of those spurts…but if it doesn’t happen, the suddenly-dreaded .500 mark is drawing closer and closer.

Cubs 4, Pirates 2 / Box / 2012 Record: 72-67 / Next: Monday, at Reds, 7:10

MVP: Holt (+.480) / LVP: Grilli (-.397) / Key play: Soriano’s HR

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