CHICAGO — Josh Harrison struck a high, inside two-seam fastball with the barrel of his bat in the ninth inning and sprinted out of the batter's box while keeping an eye on the ball tailing towards the left-field line at Wrigley Field.
Harrison expected the worst. "Baseball ... put the ball in play, you never know what's going to happen," he'd say afterwards. With a 7 mph wind blowing out to right field, the ball hung in the air long enough for Ian Happ to dive to his right, and for the ball to fall into his gloved left hand to seal the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the Pirates in front of an announced crowd of 40,097 Friday afternoon.
The play was emblematic of the Pirates' struggles over the past six weeks. Six scoreless innings from their pitching staff — including 5 1/3 from Chad Kuhl — kept them in striking distance; however, they couldn't capitalize on offense and are now below .500, 31-32, for the first time this season.
"There are little mistakes that get made along the way, but yeah, I always use the word community," Clint Hurdle said. "You have to pitch it, you have to catch it, you have to hit, you have to run the bases well. Anytime you don’t do one of those it can show up. It can bite you, especially when you’re playing against talented teams."