The Cubs came away from their 10-game road trip with a series win over the Pirates but missed a chance at a winning trip as the offense struggled Thursday in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates salvaged the series with a 6-2 win, with the difference being a third-inning home run off Cubs starter Alec Mills. Even so, that only put the Cubs down 4-2, though the offense came up empty in several big spots the rest of the game.
Some quick takes from the game.
Homer bites Mills again
The Pirates had a fair share of traffic against Mills, but he kept the Cubs in the game as the extent of the damage against him came on one swing.
Mills pitched five innings of four-run ball, allowing seven hits and a walk. He worked around doubles in the first and second innings before Bryan Reynolds unloaded a changeup down and away in the third into the bleachers for a three-run homer, putting Pittsburgh up 4-2.
Mills only allowed one hit and a walk the next two innings, but the homer proved to be the difference.
"Real frustrated with myself," he said postgame. "I'll have decent streaks in a game but I'm not putting it all together. Just frustrated, but it's more inconsistency than anything. I'll be better."
The long ball has gotten Mills in two of his last three outings; he allowed a grand slam on Aug. 19 against the Cardinals and three homers in three innings this past Friday against the Reds.
Mills kept the Cubs in the game but their offense, after scoring 16 runs total the first two games against the Pirates, didn’t cash in on several prime scoring chances in Thursday’s series finale.
With a run in and no outs in the third inning, the Cubs had runners on first and third but didn’t score again. Anthony Rizzo grounded out to third base and Javier Báez and Kyle Schwarber followed with strikeouts.
In the sixth, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out before Jason Kipnis struck out and Cameron Maybin flew out to left field. All said, the Cubs had 10 hits, left nine men on base and went 1-for-9 with RISP.
"We had some chances to add some runs early on and didn't do that," Cubs manager David Ross said postgame. "That'll catch up to you at some point. Alec threw the ball pretty good, I thought. [The missed opportunities] hurt in the end."
Cubs center fielder Ian Happ — the team’s best hitter this season — exited the game early after fouling a ball off his face near his right eye in the fourth inning. He fouled the pitch into the ground behind home plate before it deflected up under his helmet.
Happ received medical attention before exiting. The Cubs announced late in the game he has a contusion above his right eye and X-rays came back negative.
Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his first outing since blowing a save and suffering the loss in Game 2 of last Saturday’s doubleheader in Cincinnati. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning on Thursday, throwing eight pitches (seven strikes), striking out two.
The Cubs and Cardinals kick-off a five-game series Friday night at Wrigley Field with an excellent pitching matchup. Yu Darvish (6-1, 1.47 ERA) and Jack Flaherty (2-0, 1.93 ERA) are the probable starters.