Trevor Williams’ return to Pittsburgh wasn’t a memorable performance.
At least, not in a good way for the 28-year-old right-hander. Williams lasted only 3⅓ innings after surrendering five runs in the Chicago Cubs’ 7-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. It sealed a series loss and sends the Cubs to Milwaukee below .500 at 4-5.
The Cubs’ 1-0 lead in the second on Javier Báez’s third home run didn’t last long. The Pirates tagged Williams for three runs in the bottom of the second after four consecutive hits to open the inning. Even Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker got in on the action, connecting for a two-run single.
“Baseball is a game of inches, and it felt like when we were beating guys, it was just out of reach of certain guys in the field,” Williams said. “And then when I did misexecute a pitch, it was hammered. But other than that, would I have liked to get ahead of more (batters)? Sure, but I think we were pitching around the right guys in that instance.”
The Pirates played a tribute video on the left-field scoreboard for Williams while he warmed up in the first. Williams spent the previous six years in the Pirates organization, including five in the majors, posting a 4.43 ERA in 106 games (94 starts).
“I was really proud to wear the Pirate uniform,” Williams said. “Every time I stepped on the mound, it was something that I never took for granted. But then coming back on the flip side, it was a special day, too, because there was a little bit of a chip on my shoulder knowing that I could have been there with those guys but I wasn’t.
“But I’m in a good spot. I’m glad to be on the Cubs and I’m glad we got the first one (in Pittsburgh) out of the way.”
A two-run homer by pinch hitter Wilmer Difo essentially put the game away in the seventh, while the Cubs offense was again held in check. They had a couple of chances to close the gap. One of their best opportunities involved a replay review that went against them.
They appeared to trim the Pirates’ lead to one run in the third on a throwing error by shortstop Kevin Newman on Anthony Rizzo’s fielder’s choice. Ian Happ, who singled and advanced to second after Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch, scored on the error. Rizzo advanced to second, giving Kris Bryant a chance to knock him in and tie the game.
However, a review determined Contreras failed to engage in a bona fide slide and his actions impeded Newman. Contact on the play isn’t required for enforcement of the interference rule; there can also be an attempt to make contact, according to the rule book. By rule, the runner (Contreras) and hitter (Rizzo) are out on the play.
The sequence negated Happ’s run and kept the Pirates ahead 3-1.
Cubs manager David Ross said he did not receive an explanation on the interference call. He asked and hopes to get one from the league.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong there,” Contreras said. “They probably called me out because I didn’t touch the base. ... I didn’t touch the guy. If you watch the play, he threw the ball before the situation. I don’t know why they said that.”
While the interference ruling cost the Cubs a run, the loss can’t be pinned on the play.
Williams took the mound in the bottom of the third with a chance to maintain the two-run deficit. But the Pirates tacked on another run in each of the next two innings while the offense stalled.
In the fourth, Bryant (hit by pitch) and Joc Pederson (single) gave the Cubs runners on the corners with nobody out, trailing 4-1, but it was quickly snuffed out. Brubaker struck out Báez, Jason Heyward popped out and Eric Sogard’s liner was caught in center field to end the threat.
Mike Borzello, the Cubs associate pitching, catching and strategy coach, was ejected by plate umpire Greg Gibson after the Bryant hit by pitch.
The Cubs finished the series 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position.