9/12 Pirates 3, Cubs 1
Chris Rusin knew he would have a tough time with the Pirates, who rank second in the National League against left-handed pitchers with a .266 team batting average. Andrew McCutchen and Marlon Byrd lead the attack, hitting .391 and .336, respectively, against southpaws. Rusin held the Pirates to four hits over seven innings, but it wasn’t good enough.
Byrd and Pedro Alvarez each hit RBI singles off Rusin in the fourth to spark the Pirates to their fourth straight win, a 3-1 decision Thursday over the Cubs. Pittsburgh began the night one game behind St. Louis in the NL Central.
“He did a great job against a lineup that kills left-handers,” Dale Sveum said of Rusin. “That was, to me, his most impressive outing.”
All of the Pirates hits and two runs off Rusin came in the fourth inning, and he did not walk a batter. His ERA dropped to 2.85, the lowest of any rookie left-handed starter in baseball this season. Next closest are Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani (2.92 ERA) and Los Angeles’ Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.07 ERA).
Darnell McDonald led off the Chicago third against Jeff Locke with a ground-rule double that bounced over the center-field fence. Two outs later, he scored on Starlin Castro’s single. That was it.
The Pirates answered in the fourth. With one out, Jordy Mercer singled for the first hit off Rusin, and reached third on McCutchen’s double that bounced off the third-base bag.
“The baseball Gods got me that time,” Rusin said of McCutchen’s lucky hit.
Rusin got Justin Morneau to hit a comebacker and he threw home to snag Mercer for the second out. But McCutchen scored on Byrd’s single to center to tie the game, and Alvarez followed with a RBI single.
The way the Pirates have been playing, you can only hope to contain them.
“For the most part, you’re keeping their slugging percentage down,” Sveum said. “You don’t walk anybody and you’ve got a chance to get out of innings, you can keep the game close, and that’s what we did.”
The runs off Rusin were the first he’s given up after 22 1/3 scoreless innings on the road, the longest streak by a Cubs rookie lefty away from home in franchise history. Rusin’s streak was also the longest in baseball since Neal Heaton’s 23-inning scoreless stretch on the road for the Indians from Aug. 9-29, 1983, his rookie season.
While the Pirates are trying to figure out who they’ll play in the postseason, the Cubs are looking ahead to next year. Will Rusin be in the 2014 rotation?
“We’ll cross those bridges when we get to it,” Sveum said. “He’s definitely put himself in a position to have every opportunity to make the rotation.”
– Carrie Muskat