Cubs

Observations: Matt Duffy comes up big off the bench

Cubs

The Cubs beat the Pirates 3-2 on Saturday, improving to 17-16 on the season.

Here’s 10 observations from the game.

1. Professional hitter Matt Duffy just keeps on getting the job done. The under-the-radar offseason addition came off the bench with two outs in the seventh inning and came up with another big hit for the Cubs. Duffy's RBI single gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.

Duffy, whose RBI single set up Anthony Rizzo's walk-off Wednesday, has hit safely in 10 of his last 14 games. 

"All around just a great baseball player and he continues to come through for us and get big hits," manager David Ross said of Duffy. "It's so refreshing to see him get in the box and have a lot of confidence.

"It gives us a lot of confidence to have him in there, no matter who's on the mound."

2. Javy Báez exited Saturday's game after the seventh with lower back tightness. Ildemaro Vargas (shortstop) and Duffy (third base) stayed in after pinch hitting. Kris Bryant moved to left and Jake Marisnick came on to play center.

3. We’ve seen the Cubs rotation deliver longer outings this week — Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies each pitched seven innings. However, Saturday marks the 24th time in 33 games Cubs starters threw less than six innings.

Trevor Williams tossed four innings, allowing two runs on five hits on 83 pitches.

 

4. Williams may not have lasted long, but he kept the Cubs in the game, continuing a solid stretch from their rotation, which  holds a 1.69 ERA in five games this homestand (26 2/3 innings). 

In seven games leading up to the homestand, Cubs starters posted a 9.53 ERA in just 28 1/3 innings.

5. Willson Contreras did his best Báez impression in the fourth inning, advancing to second on a strikeout in the dirt that eluded Pirates catcher Michael Perez. He later scored on a sac fly hit to shallow center field, a heads up play that tied the score at 2.

6. But the Cubs may have caught a break on that strikeout in the dirt. Pirates manager Derek Shelton argued Jason Heyward, who was leaving the batter’s box, interfered with Perez as he tried to recover the ball.

Shelton’s argument was to no avail, and the Cubs tied it two batters later.

7. Fear not, Cubs fans. Craig Kimbrel was back on the bump Saturday after being down on Friday, when the bullpen nearly gave up the lead in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh.

The closer shut down Pittsburgh in the ninth to record his sixth save in seven tries this season.

8. Is it possible the Cubs, who struggled to develop any homegrown pitchers the past decade, have three on their roster right now? Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele have thrown well so far this season, and Keegan Thompson continued his strong debut with three shutout innings Saturday.

Thompson hasn’t allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings to start his career. Saturday was his first big league win.

9. Contreras is back atop the National League leaderboard in most hit by pitches. He tied the Brewers’ Jackie Bradley Jr. for No. 1 when Wil Crowe plunked him on the upper left arm in the first. It forced in a run.

10. The Cubs are above .500 for the first time since April 23, when they were 10-9.

On deck: The Pirates and Cubs finish up their three-game series Sunday at Wrigley Field. First pitch is 1:20 p.m. Tyler Anderson (2-3, 3.24 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (2-3, 6.07 ERA) are the probable starters.

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