Pirates bullpen saves victory against Cubs after Kevin Newman makes amends

Kevin Newman’s bounce-back game wasn’t enough.

The bullpen continuing to come up big in the clutch couldn’t carry the Pittsburgh Pirates to victory by itself. Not on this day.

What it really took for the Pirates (8-8) to defeat the Chicago Cubs, 4-3, on Sunday was a collective effort from Newman, six relief pitchers to get 18 outs (the last nine with tying runs on base), a good night’s sleep for starter JT Brubaker and Jake Marisnick’s rocket arm.

If any one of those four elements failed to materialize before a crowd of 28,387 at Wrigley Field, the Pirates might not have won.

Outscored 29-12 in four games by the Cubs (7-9), the Pirates won three, capturing a road series of that length for the first time since June 24-27, 2021, and the first such series at Wrigley in 15 years .

There were plenty of smiles afterward, but manager Derek Shelton knew the truth.

“We didn’t play great,” he told AT&T SportsNet after the game.

He was right. The Pirates committed two errors, including third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes’ first of the season. They also allowed a bloop to fall for a single in short right field in what could have been a decisive the seventh inning.

“I give credit to the bullpen,” he said. “Anytime we didn’t make a play or something happened, they stepped up and picked us up. I think that’s a sign of a good team. ”

Brubaker was so sick Saturday he stayed back at the hotel while his teammates were defeated by the Cubs, 21-0. He pushed through three innings Sunday and turned a 3-2 lead over to the bullpen.

“If you would have seen him (Saturday) morning, I didn’t think he was going to pitch (Sunday),” Shelton said. “I told him just give us as many outs as you can. I would bet if you asked him, he can’t feel his legs (after the game). That’s why we saw the tick down in his velocity. Gutsy effort by him. ”

Brubaker struck out four and started a double play in the third, thanks to Newman short-hopping the poor throw to second base.

“I wasn’t feeling the greatest,” Brubaker said. “Headache kind of kicked my butt a little bit to where I was congested and wasn’t able to really open my eyes (Saturday). Once I just got some fluids and a little bit of food in me, got a good night’s sleep, I woke up feeling a lot better. ”

Because the bullpen performed in a more dramatic setting in the late innings, Newman’s contributions could have been ignored.

He walked and doubled, the latter giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the third. He turned another double play an inning later. In the fifth, he went far into the hole between shortstop and third to secure a groundball by Nick Madrigal and get an out.

This was a day after committing two errors in one inning.

“Big bounce-back day,” Shelton said. “It just shows the growth of Kevin Newman as a player. (Saturday) was not a good day for us all around. We flushed it and went. ”

Yet all of the Pirates’ best efforts might have been flushed away if not for the bullpen and right fielder Jake Marisnick.

Winning pitcher Dillon Peters (3-0) worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings, retiring seven of eight batters. Jonathan Villar’s single to lead off the fourth was the first hit against Peters in five appearances this season. He has allowed only one hit and no runs while facing 33 batters.

Wil Crowe finished the sixth and pitched out of a jam in the seventh.

Alfonso Rivas led off with a double. Then, Crowe lost his 16-batter streak of not allowing a hit with runners on base when second baseman Michael Chavis allowed Patrick Wisdom’s blooper to drop in short right field for a single. With runners on the corners and no one out, Crowe shut down the next three batters, maintaining the Pirates’ 4-2 lead.

Mt. Lebanon graduate Ian Happ homered off Heath Hembree in the eighth, but Chris Stratton entered the game to keep the Cubs’ deficit at one run.

Finally, in the ninth, David Bednar earned his second save, but without Marisnick’s contribution, he might have been the losing pitcher.

With one out, Rafael Ortega doubled off the bricks in the right field. The ball ricocheted toward the infield, where Marisnick ran it down and fired into the infield to keep Ortega at second.

The next batter, Seiya Suzuki, blooped a double into an empty patch of grass in short right field. Marisnick, fighting an illness that had plagued Brubaker the day before, picked up the baseball and threw home, keeping Ortega at third.

“That throw was an absolute laser. For him to be able to keep that guy at third was unbelievable, ”Bednar said.

Added Shelton: “Changed the game.”

“I give him a ton of credit. He does not feel well, and he grinded through it. Definitely saved our butts there.

“Every time I asked him, he told me he was fine. I know he was lying to me, but I appreciate the fact he was grinding through it. ”

Shelton decided to walk Happ intentionally to load the bases, and Bednar got back to business, striking out Willson Contreras and Frank Schwindel on 97.6 and 97.8 mph fastballs to end the game.

“Guys know he’s got (the fastball),” Shelton said, “and he went right after them and executed and executed well.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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