Part of the fun of talking baseball is dissecting strategy.
There was plenty to dissect Sunday after the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
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Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field
TV: WCIU Monday; Comcast SportsNet Tuesday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: he Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (2-6) vs. Alfredo Simon (10-3) Monday at 7:05 p.m.; Jake Arrieta (3-1) vs. Homer Bailey (7-3) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (5-7) vs. Mat Latos (0-0) Wednesday at 6:05 p.m.
At a glance: he Cubs are 2-3 against the Reds, 1-2 at Wrigley Field. A playoff team last year, the Reds are still trying to get over the hump under first-year manager Bryan Price. Both teams are bottom-half clubs offensively in the National League. The Reds were 10th in runs scored and 12th in on-base percentage entering Sunday while the Cubs were 12th in runs and 14th in OBP. It's unusual not to find the Reds' Joey Votto among the league leaders in the key categories, but he was on the DL at one time and does not have enough plate appearances to qualify. Still his .410 OBP entering Sunday is solid. Todd Frazier entered Sunday tied for third in homers (16), just 1 ahead of the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo.
Next: Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field, Thursday-Saturday
-- Bruce Miles
Let's get right to it:
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Cubs got a leadoff single from pinch hitter Junior Lake in the seventh spot of the batting order and a single by Darwin Barney to put runners on first and second.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria had Welington Castillo on deck to pinch hit in the ninth spot. But when Barney singled, Renteria shifted gears and went with pitcher Travis Wood to pinch hit and ostensibly to bunt.
That's just what Wood did, laying down a sacrifice on 0-2 pitch against Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson.
Renteria then went with right-handed pinch hitters Castillo and Justin Ruggiano, both of whom struck out, ending the threat.
"What we were basically trying to see was how the inning was going to continue," Renteria said. "With those first two guys on, obviously, I don't want to bunt Welly. I wanted to put Woody in there to put them over.
"With one guy on, I would have gone ahead and possibly hit Welington."
Late in the game, Renteria seemed to be playing for the tie by getting the tying runners in scoring position with fewer than two outs, hoping that a basehit to the outfield would score them.
"Correct," Renteria said.
It was a pitcher's kind of day at Wrigley, with the temperature at 65 degrees and the wind coming in from the northeast at 9 mph.
So on a hitter's day with the wind howling out, does Renteria still bunt in that situation?
"I'm trying to score some runs," he said. "I'm trying to get us in a position where we can potentially tie the ballgame. Whether the wind had been howling out, I was trying to give us a situation where I saw that there was no one else throwing.
"The lefty (Watson) was going to stay in there. We ended up getting both Welly and Ruggiano at-bats in key situations."
In the ninth, the Cubs put runners on first and third with nobody out when Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro singled.
Luis Valbuena struck out before Nate Schierholtz grounded into an RBI forceout. Lake flied out on a first pitch to end the game against Pirates closer Mark Melancon.
Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel was the hard-luck loser, as he worked 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 2 runs. He fell to 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA.
The Pirates got both runs in the third, on a leadoff homer by Travis Snider and an RBI single later by Josh Harrison.
That was enough for Pittsburgh starting pitcher Brandon Cumpton (3-2), who worked 7 innings.
"Very good lineup," Hammel said. "I can honestly say I'm sick of seeing the Pirates. It's four series now, and I'm four out of four with them, so I'd like to see some different colors. I'm sure they're tired of seeing me, too. Obviously, 2-1, just a good baseball game."
Hammel may or not be traded by the July 31 deadline, but he says he likes the character of the club he's a part of now. That club is 31-42.
"It's great character, great character," he said. "I said it earlier this year. It's just another 2-1 loss. There's a lot of close ballgames that we're playing well.
"We just can't scratch and claw those runs that we need. It's just a matter of learning how to do that, and that's what's going to make this team a winner."
And real victories will be better than moral victories.
"We had a couple opportunities, but we didn't get it done," Rizzo said. "They have a great bullpen. It's not a moral victory. We lost the game. Cumpton pitched a really good game for them, and they shut us down."