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Pirates fall to Cubs in game full of oddities

PITTSBURGH — Everything about Thursday night’s Pirates game against the Chicago Cubs felt a little off.

Blame it on the fact the team only got back to Pittsburgh last night. Blame it on the game being scheduled at the same time as the Steelers game against the Cleveland Browns, which helped result in an announced attendance of just 9,166, maybe even a generous estimate. Blame it on the fact the Pirates are running out the clock on a brutal season, now sitting with a 55-95 record.

Blame it on some of them or all of them, but the result was a 3-2 loss that can’t really be called uneventful, even if it felt a little lifeless.

For starters, the Pirates lineup took part in a small piece of history, but they were once again on the negative side of it. In the fifth inning, Cubs starter Hayden Wesneski took the mound once again. He struck out Jack Suwinski on three pitches, then did the same against Zack Collins and Jason Delay, recording the 111th immaculate inning in the history of MLB by striking out three batters on nine pitches in the same frame.

Outside of that, the main headline for the Pirates, at least, came before the game. Right-handed reliever David Bednar, the team’s All-Star representative this season, was re-activated for the first time since early August.

He pitched, too, entering in the seventh inning with his team down a run, but it didn’t go as well as the Pirates and Bednar would have hoped. He allowed a single to lead off the inning, then a stolen base. The next batter, Michael Hermosillo, singled to score a run, and Bednar walked another before inducing an inning-ending double play on a lineout to second.

That rust can be somewhat expected from someone making his first appearance since the end of July.

Even the other Pirates positives came with their oddities. Right-hander Mitch Keller was solid overall, adding another data point to what’s turning out to be quite a solid season. He lasted six innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven.

The damage the Cubs did against him came when Keller blinked for exactly one inning. In the second frame, he gave up a single before recording two quick outs. Then, the eight and nine hitters in the Cubs order did him in, with a single from Hermosillo and a two-run double from Christopher Morel.

Outside of that, Keller was dominant. The easiest way to explain that effort in a game the Pirates lost is the offense didn’t back him up much. Designated hitter Bryan Reynolds went 3 for 3 with two walks and an RBI single in the third, bumping his seasonlong OPS to .799. The rest of the lineup combined for three hits.

The most emphatic of those came from second baseman Kevin Newman, who ripped a seventh-inning homer down the left-field line. Outside of the fact it was just his second blast of the season, not even the bomb was straightforward.

After Newman hit it out, the PNC Park lights flashed in celebration, as they always do. For whatever reason, though, they wouldn’t stop blinking. Eventually, the lights were cut off completely and a delay occurred before the usual game-action lighting was restored.

Really, that about sums it up. The Pirates didn’t do enough things well to beat the Cubs on Thursday. They even got the potential game-winning run to second base in the ninth, after Ke’Bryan Hayes was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a wild pitch and a stolen base, then Reynolds walked and stole second with two outs. Rodolfo Castro flew out to center to end the game and strand Hayes and Reynolds.

So, even when the Pirates did get things right Thursday, they came with a caveat, sometimes a strange one, as their losing streak was extended to seven.

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