Surging Cubs race past reeling Pirates 8-0 to spoil touted prospect Henry Davis’ MLB debut
PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs believe they’re starting to turn things around. The bounces that went against them for much of a miserable six-week stretch are now going their way.
The whims of Mother Nature included, apparently.
Drew Smyly gave up three hits in five innings, Mike Tauchman hit a two-run single during a brief downpour and the surging Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 on Monday night to spoil the major-league debut of former top pick Henry Davis.
Smyly (7-4) worked around five walks to win his second straight start following a three-game losing streak. He also watched from the safety of the dugout during the top of the second when the skies opened at the same time his teammates were beginning to get to Pirates rookie starter Osvaldo Bido (0-1).
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs as the rain intensified. Pirates pitching coach Oscar Marin went out to talk to Bido, with several Pittsburgh players appearing to plead with the umpires to stop the game until the weather cleared.
Instead, they played on, and Tauchman followed by lacing a single through the raindrops into center field to score Christopher Morel and Yan Gomes. Nico Hoerner’s single to center scored Miles Mastrobuoni and the Cubs led 3-0.
And while Bido settled down - retiring 12 of 13 at one point - to strike out seven in six innings in his second major-league start, his bobble in the rain made sure the Cubs had all the offense Smyly and three relievers would require.
“I definitely got the better half of that rain,” Smyly said. “I mean, their guy had to kind of wear it. It looked pretty heavy for a little bit.”
By the time Smyly went out for the bottom of the second, the skies had cleared and Chicago was firmly in control even on a night when Smyly didn’t have his best stuff. The 34-year-old left-hander tied a career-high with five walks, set nine years ago while pitching for Detroit.
Still, he didn’t need to be sharp to take advantage of a Pittsburgh offense that is struggling to generate much of anything. The Pirates managed just five hits - one of them a double by Davis in his first major-league at-bat - and left the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings when the game was still in doubt.
Pittsburgh has dropped seven straight, four of them to the Cubs.
Chicago, meanwhile, has won eight of 10 to nudge back into a muddled NL Central race.
“There’s a lot of veterans on our team and they realize it’s a marathon, it’s a long race,” Smyly said. “You’re going to have slumps, you’re going to have stretches that things aren’t going your way. But it’s been really nice to see how we turned it around.”
Having Tauchman delivering at the top of the lineup helps. A day after hitting his first home run for the Cubs, Tauchman went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs. Tauchman is hitting .387 (12 for 31) since being moved to the leadoff spot.
“Our offense has started going (because of) his presence up there,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “Just a calm bat. He’s got some experience. He, you know, feels like he controls the strike zone really well, works the count and you know, he’s a smart base runner.”
The Pirates are hoping Davis - the top pick in the 2021 amateur draft - will help provide a boost to an offense that entered Monday in the bottom half of the league in runs and home runs.
The 23-year-old hit 11 homers in 51 games in the minors this season, earning a promotion to the majors after less than two weeks at Triple-A Indianapolis.
He received a warm ovation when he was introduced leading off the third inning, the roar from a crowd that included his parents and his high school baseball coach grew louder when he turned on a 92 mph sinker from Smyly and smoked it over third base. The ball caromed off a railing in left field, giving Davis time to make it to second.
“Honestly, I felt pretty comfortable,” Davis said. “I worked really hard for this. I really trust my approach, whether it’s spring training or whatever level. Just try to have a good at-bat, help the team win.”
Something that hasn’t happened much of late. Davis ended up stranded at third after the double, symbolic of a night when Pittsburgh left 10 men on.
The series continues on Tuesday. Chicago’s Marcus Stroman (8-4, 2.45 ERA) will go for his seventh straight win against Pittsburgh’s Johan Oviedo (3-6, 4.40).