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A record 6 bases-loaded walks in 1 inning is not enough for Chicago Cubs in a wild 10-9 loss to Pittsburgh Pirates

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PITTSBURGH — Nearly 35,000 fans at PNC Park hung onto every pitch baseball’s top pitching prospect, Pirates right-hander Paul Skenes, unleashed Saturday afternoon.

In Skenes’ highly anticipated major-league debut, the Chicago Cubs were tasked with solving an arsenal that features a triple-digit fastball, nasty slider and swing-and-miss splitter. Pirates fans erupted after each of Skenes’ seven strikeouts and booed at balls they believed were strikes. The Cubs made him work, though, knocking Skenes out of the game to a standing ovation after Mike Tauchman’s and Seiya Suzuki’s consecutive hits to begin the fifth inning.

That was merely the beginning of a wild, ambling 10-9 loss to the Pirates that included a 2 hour, 20-minute rain delay and the Cubs producing a franchise-record six bases-loaded walks in one inning.

“It felt like a doubleheader of sorts,” Nico Hoerner said. “Lot to break down from a day like that. I thought we had really good at-bats throughout the entire day. Obviously that one thing was abnormal, but even our at-bats against Skenes I thought were pretty solid so good day from an offensive end.”

The game turned in the fifth when the Cubs, trailing by five runs, were on the verge of wasting Tauchman’s and Suzuki’s respective double and single. Cody Bellinger and Christopher Morel struck out as a thunderstorm approached the ballpark. Pirates reliever Kyle Nicolas hit Ian Happ with a first-pitch curveball to load the bases. He wouldn’t throw a strike the rest of his outing.

Nicolas and lefty Josh Fleming combined to walk the next four Cubs hitters with the bases loaded, at one point throwing 15 consecutive balls. As heavy rain started to fall and the Pirates’ lead trimmed to one, Tauchman sliced a tying RBI single on an infield hit toward the hole at shortstop.

The game immediately went into a lengthy rain delay. Suzuki had plenty of time to contemplate his next at-bat, but right-hander Colin Holderman picked up where his teammates left off, walking the slugger on four pitches with the bases loaded to put the Cubs ahead. Bellinger tacked on to the lead with a five-pitch walk.

The rally ended on a flyout from Nick Madrigal, pinch hitting for Morel, who exited the game with right knee soreness. Morel’s knee became sore during the rain delay, though manager Craig Counsell said they are “not concerned about it necessarily.” Morel appeared in discomfort after sliding into second base on a steal attempt in the third. He was checked on by a team trainer but remained in the game at the time.

The Cubs’ six bases-loaded walks in the fifth represented a franchise record and were the most by a team in one inning since the White Sox had eight in the seventh inning on April 22, 1959, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They recorded only three hits in the seven-run frame.

“There’s proof the game shows you something new every day,” Counsell said.

Pirates starter Paul Skenes high-fives teammates after being relieved in the fifth inning of his major-league debut against the Cubs on May 11, 2024, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. (Justin Berl/Getty)
Pirates starter Paul Skenes high-fives teammates after being relieved in the fifth inning of his major-league debut against the Cubs on May 11, 2024, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. (Justin Berl/Getty)

An electric atmosphere paced the first four-plus innings Skenes commanded the mound. His 101.9-mph pitch in the first inning marked the fastest by a Pirates starter since 2008, when pitch tracking began, according to MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs.

The Cubs (23-17) made Skenes work in the second inning by loading the bases with one out. Although he escaped the jam, the Cubs got to him in the fourth on Hoerner’s first-pitch homer. The first two runs of the fifth were charged to Skenes, who threw 84 pitches in his debut.

“Obviously, the radar gun doesn’t lie, it’s a good fastball,” said Tauchman, who struck out on a 100.9-mph, four-seam fastball to begin the game. “A big crowd today and there’s a lot of expectations, seemed like he was in pretty good control of his emotions. As a young player coming in to the league, sometimes it’s hard to control that.”

The Cubs couldn’t take advantage of their comeback in the fifth when they sent 13 batters to the plate. Right-hander Keegan Thompson handed back the lead to the Pirates in the bottom of the inning on Yasmani Grandal’s three-run homer. Andrew McCutchen added a home run in the sixth off left-hander Richard Lovelady that would stand as the difference in the game.

Tauchman’s sacrifice fly in the ninth against Pirates closer David Bednar pulled the Cubs within one, but the tying run was stranded at third base on Bellinger’s fly out to end the game.

“We gave up 10 runs, that’s how you lose a game you score (seven) runs in an inning,” Counsell said.

Left-hander Justin Steele got beat on the long ball, surrendering three home runs in a game for only the second time in his career. All three homers, leading to six runs, came on an 0-2 pitch. Steele said the slider to Connor Joe on the three-run homer in the third needed to be to his back foot while Oneil Cruz’s should have been low and away. Instead, Steele gave up the first back-to-back homers of his career on the sequence.

He didn’t produce any whiffs on the 21 sliders he threw to the Pirates.

“I was getting to two strikes throwing good, competitive sliders and then when I would get to two strikes, I’d probably try to do a little too much, try to rip it a little too hard,” Steele said. “It ends up kind of spinning in the middle of the zone for too long and they were able to put a good swing on it.”

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Meghan Montemurro , 2024-05-12 06:48:15

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