Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 5/27/12

For the second straight night, the Cubs managed to out-do the Pirates in terms of ineptitude, resulting in another Pirate win and Chicago’s 11th straight loss.

The, um, “intriguing” pitching matchup of Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia didn’t jump-start either offense, but both teams were at least able to get some early runs on the board. The Pirates struck twice in the third inning, starting with Jose Tabata reaching on a HBP. Josh Harrison bunted him to second, then Maholm walked Andrew McCutchen (I guess it’s appropriate that only a former teammate would be wise enough to stay away from McCutchen). It didn’t work out as Paul planned it, though, as Pedro Alvarez lined a sharp RBI single to score Tabata. Neil Walker then added a sac-fly to make it 2-0.

Correia was sharp early on against the meager Cub offense, but Alfonso Soriano got him for a solo shot in the fourth, and the Cubs tied it on a Starlin Castro triple in the fifth. It was about as good of  a start as you’ll see from Kevin, who struck out two and allowed five hits. He made it into the seventh inning, but was pulled after a one-out walk (making Hurdle’s decision to leave him in to bat in the 6th seem rather silly).

Correia was also the benficiary of two great defensive plays by the Pirates. In the third, Maholm was on third with two outs when Castro hit a dribbler towards third. Pedro fired home instead of trying to make the tough play to first, and Rod Barajas was able to put the tag on Paul, who wasn’t expecting the throw. The smart, well-executed play saved a run. The defense saved another run in the seventh, when Tony Watson allowed a double to the RF corner to the first batter he faced after replacing Correia. Harrison got it into Walker, who gunned one home to Barajas in pleny of time to record another out at the plate.

The Pirate offense fell relatively silent after scoring those two early runs, although they did mount a few more mini-threats. Clint Barmes left the bases loaded in the third, and Walker missed an easy RBI chance when he popped up with a man on third with just one out in the fifth. Andrew McCutchen stole two bases and was on base three times, creating a few more scoring opportunities.

Although Watson had a rough outing, Brad Lincoln was able to clean up his mess and throw another scoreless inning, preserving the tie game. Joel Hanrahan pitched a dominant ninth, setting up a walk-off chance for the Pirates in the bottom of the inning.

Tabata led off with a single, and then Harrison squared to bunt. Harrison is probably the team’s hottest hitter, and had already bunted once on the night. If he had done so again, the Cubs would have intentionally walked McCutchen again. I don’t understand the logic. It didn’t matter, though, because reliever Rafael Dolis walked Harrison (a big feat in itself) anyway. Then he struck out McCutchen and got Alvarez to fly out, significantly reducing the threat. Walker then walked, bringing up Matt Hague, who had put together solid at-bats all night. Hague worked the count to 2-2, then got plunked for a very bizarre walk-off victory.

The win marked the first time the Pirates won on a walkoff HBP since Tony Womack did it in 1997, and was only the 58th time it happened in MLB in the last 64 years (thanks to @JamesSantelli for those tidbits).

Strange win, but we’ll obviously take it in a heartbeat. The Bucs picked up a series win in front of a packed crowd (although from TV, it looked like a shockingly dead atmosphere even with the bases loaded in the ninth) and should have a great shot at a sweep tomorrow afternoon. It’s clear how badly the Cubs are struggling right now, and the Pirates have done just enough to take advantage on these last two nights.

Pirates 3, Cubs 2 / Box / 2012 Record: 22-24 / Next: Sunday, vs. Cubs, 1:35

MVP: Hague (+.267) / LVP: Barmes (-.149) / Key play: The walkoff HBP

©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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