May 26—The Pittsburgh Pirates snapped out of a first-inning funk by scoring two runs against the Chicago Cubs.
It was the third and fifth innings that proved to be problems.
And Joc Pederson served as the antagonist in both, as the left fielder homered twice off Cody Ponce to lead the Cubs to a 4-3 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night before 6,750 at PNC Park.
“He swung the bat well,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of Pederson, who went 3 for 5 with a double and three RBIs. “Part of that inning, we gave up a hit to the pitcher before that, and that ended up hurting us a little bit. But I thought Cody did a nice job. He threw strikes and just got beat by the long ball.”
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Pirates (18-29), who recalled Ponce from Triple-A Indianapolis to make a spot start after Trevor Cahill (left calf strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list.
Ponce (0-1), who gave up four runs on nine hits, allowed a two-out single to Javier Baez but escaped with a scoreless first inning. It was only the second time in the past seven games the Pirates didn’t give up a run in the first frame.
The Pirates’ right-hander cruised through the first four innings, giving up only a solo homer to Pederson in the third on a 3-2 changeup. It was in the fifth that things began to unravel. Ponce gave up a one-out single to Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, then missed on a slider that Pederson sent 401 feet to center to tie the game at 3-3. It was the 16th career multi-homer game for Pederson.
“It was the right pitch that we wanted to go to,” Ponce said. “It was set up right where we wanted it. I think it just came out of my hand a little bit wrong. Backed up a little on me. Still down, below the zone, where we wanted it, but that’s baseball.”
Baez followed with a double to left. After a mound visit, Anthony Rizzo hit a hot grounder through the defensive shift at shortstop to score Baez for the game-winning run.
The Cubs (25-22) recovered from a rocky first inning as Arrieta (5-4) allowed three runs on five hits while striking out seven in five innings. Adam Frazier hit a leadoff single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, and advanced to third on Ben Gamel‘s double down the right field line. Frazier scored on a passed ball by catcher P.J. Higgins for a 1-0 lead, and Gamel scored on a Jacob Stallings single for a 2-0 lead.
Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner started the second with back-to-back singles off Ponce. When David Bote flew out to center, Bryan Reynolds didn’t attempt to throw out Happ at third. Instead, Reynolds hit the cutoff man at second base to prevent both runners from advancing. It paid off, as Ponce got Higgins to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and get out to the jam.
In the second, Will Craig hit a ground-rule double to left and scored on a single by Gamel — who went 2 for 2 with a walk — to make it 3-0. Pederson’s first homer cut it to 3-1 in the third.
The Pirates rallied in the seventh, when Frazier drew a two-out walk against Keegan Thompson and Wilmer Difo got a pinch-hit double down the right-field line off Andrew Chafin. But Bryan Reynolds was called out on a check swing by first base umpire Doug Eddings, who did the same to Erik Gonzalez to end the eighth.
In the ninth, the Pirates had the tying run on third base when Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel got Adam Frazier to ground out to end the ninth inning. Cole Tucker hit a leadoff double to right-center in the ninth, then tagged to third on Will Craig’s fly out to right.
Shelton refused to pin the loss on Ponce, despite the two homers.
“He competed, he threw the ball on the plate, no nerves at all, which was good,” Shelton said. “It’s just we ended up not executing a couple of pitches. The way it’s been lately, when we don’t execute pitches, they’re getting hit out of the ballpark. When that happens, it’s unfortunate.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .