An 87 mile-per-hour fastball was the only thing needed to confirm that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs are indeed in a rivalry. The game was long decided when Pirates pitcher Kyle Lobstein hit Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist with a pitch in the seventh inning of a 7-2 Cubs win.
An inning earlier, Starling Marte was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this season, a mark that ties Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer for the Major League lead. After Zobrist was hit, home plate umpire Laz Diaz immediately warned both benches.
“I’ve got to pitch inside,” Lobstein said. “I’ve told you guys this all season, I throw 87, so I’ve got to pitch inside and make guys uncomfortable. … I’m going to hit some guys with that philosophy. It happens.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon appeared to take exception to his team being warned and, from the dugout, voiced his displeasure with Lobstein — Maddon appeared to use profane language while talking to the pitcher.
“(Zobrist) was fine, and then I was able to vent a little bit,” Maddon said. “We’ve all been there, you have to vent. I didn’t say a word to Clint (Hurdle). I was directing my comments to the pitcher.”
Lobstein didn’t seem to take offense.
“I don’t know exactly what was said, but there was some yelling going on,” Lobstein said. “Baseball is a very emotional game, so it’s going to happen. It’s boys playing a game, and you just move on from it.”
Cole not in command
Gerrit Cole (2-3) came into Monday night’s start with two consecutive wins and on his best string of baseball this season, but he left the mound after just 4.2 innings, tying his shortest appearance of the season.
All night, something just didn’t add up for Cole, who allowed six runs (five earned) while walking three batters and striking out six.
“He was out of sync,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “He just didn’t have it tonight.”
Hurdle’s concise explanation was one Cole agreed with. When asked what went wrong, Cole got straight to the point.
“Pretty much a lot of things,” he said. “It’s a good way of describing it. There really wasn’t a whole lot of command — period. There wasn’t really anything to go to.”
The Cubs stole three bases off Cole (Chicago’s leadoff hitter, Dexter Fowler, was responsible for two of those thefts.) Hurdle admitted the Cubs may have seen something, but the Pirates have ideas on how to fix it.
Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli refused to blame his pitcher and accepted responsibility across the board.
“As a catcher, you have to figure out when something is not working to find a way to make it happen,” he said. “I wasn’t (able) to do it, so it was my fault tonight. It was me. That’s it.”
Even when Cole came out, he was responsible for the three Cubs left on base, all of which scored. The final run came on a delayed double steal attempt similar to the one the Cincinnati Reds executed Sunday. Tonight, a high throw from second baseman Josh Harrison allowed the sixth run to score as right fielder Matt Szczur crossed home.
“We’ve done everything but getting the out right at the end,” Hurdle said. “We have to put the last piece of that play in because I imagine the league will keep running it against us since we can’t stop it.”
Cole knows the outing left a lot to be desired and, after reviewing tape, will work to improve.
“There are things I could definitely control out there, but we have to move forward on it,” Cole said.
Two streaks ended for the Pirates in this game: Josh Harrison’s 0-for-4 night at the plate snapped a 10-game hitting streak, and Lobstein allowed a run to score in the aforementioned seventh inning, ending his scoreless streak at 10.2 innings.
The series between the two teams will continue Tuesday night when Pittsburgh’s Jonathon Niese (3-0 5.08 ERA) takes on Chicago’s Jake Arrieta (5-0 1.00 ERA). Niese is 3-6 with a 4.76 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs.
Photo credit: Keith Srakocic/AP Photo