Without best fastball, Jared Jones spins quality start in Pirates' win against Cubs

Andrew Destin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO — Same opponent and a different pitch escaping him. No problem.

Despite not having his fastball Thursday night at Wrigley Field, Jared Jones spun his sixth quality start in nine tries this season as the Pirates beat the Cubs, 5-4. It wasn’t always pretty for Jones, who gave up three earned runs in six innings, but he pitched well enough to put the Pirates in position to win their 20th game of the season.

Jones, who last Friday against the Cubs at PNC Park struggled to get hitters out with his slider, had no such problems this time around with the breaking ball. All 14 of Chicago’s whiffs, per Baseball Savant, were generated via the slider, and all seven of Jones’ strikeouts.

His four-seam fastball, meanwhile, failed to produce a whiff for the first time this season. It was instead batted around a bit, like when Mt. Lebanon native Ian Happ continued his career-long tormenting of the Pirates with a solo shot to right.

The Cubs strung together a couple rallies against Jones in the fourth and fifth innings, too. Nick Madrigal stayed with a two-strike slider for an RBI single to right in the fourth, and Cody Bellinger doubled down the right-field line to plate Chicago’s final run off Jones in the fifth.

The 22-year-old right-hander sat at 81 pitches after five, but finished off the start with his most dominant inning, retiring the final two batters he faced with swinging strikeouts.

For Jones, it was the latest example in pitching effectively against the Cubs without his full repertoire. He similarly produced a quality start, albeit in a losing effort his last time out.

Unlike his last seven starts in which the Pirates scored just 13 runs, the club manufactured sufficient offense to get Jones his third win of the season.

On the mound


Aroldis Chapman made his first relief appearance since cracking a nail last Sunday and excelled. The fire-balling left-hander quickly maneuvered his way through the bottom of the Cubs’ lineup before striking out Mike Tauchman swinging.

Colin Holderman, who entered the contest with a sub-1.00 ERA, promptly hit Seiya Suzuki with a pitch to start the eighth, and the Cubs right fielder came around on a sacrifice fly by Christopher Morel two batters later. Those at-bats sandwiched Bellinger reaching on a swinging bunt that Yasmani Grandal made a throwing error on, putting two runners in scoring position.

One run was as much as the Cubs could muster off Holderman, however, the Pirates setup man safely stranding a pair.

At the plate

The Pirates had plenty of reasons to feel confident going into Thursday’s game. They had tagged Cubs left-hander Justin Steele for six earned runs in four innings just five days ago, and as a team have fared well all season against southpaws.

They entered the contest tied for MLB’s fifth-most homers against left-handers, and quickly added to that total. Edward Olivares hit a two-run homer in the first, and Nick Gonzales added his second long ball in three games in the fourth.

The Pirates also strung together some solid rallies in the later innings of Steele’s start. Bryan Reynolds smoked a two-out double down the left-field line in the fifth to plate Michael A. Taylor, and Grandal brought home the club’s fifth run on a sacrifice fly that Suzuki misplayed in right.

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