Cubs still waiting on offensive reinforcements

Cubs still waiting on offensive reinforcements
June 7, 2013, 4:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Maybe the Cubs really could use Kris Bryant right now.

The Cubs made Bryant the No. 2 overall selection in the MLB Draft Thursday, and the top amateur hitter declared himself ready for the big leagues now.

[RELATED: Cubs believe Bryant ready for impact]]

Friday, the Cubs could have used all the offense they could get, as they mustered just five singles in a 2-0 loss to the Pirates.

Cubs hitters worked the count and drew five walks off starter Francisco Liriano, but managed only two singles off the Pittsburgh lefty, including a fifth-inning hit from pitcher Travis Wood to break up Liriano's no-hitter.

"He kept us off balance and kept the ball down all day," Wood said. "He really worked us. Even though he had several walks, he was able to battle around that and pitch a great ballgame."

[MORE: Cubs make a run on arms on second day of MLB Draft]

On the mound, Wood tallied another quality start -- his 11th in 12 tries this season -- allowing just one run in the sixth on an RBI double by catcher Russell Martin.

"He's pitched like an All-Star, that's for sure," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "They're not just quality starts, they're one or two runs through six [innings]. It's not three [runs]."

Wood allowed four hits and a pair of walks in six innings, but Liriano was just a touch better.

The Pirates southpaw improved to 4-2 on the season with a 1.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP after striking out eight in seven shutout innings.

"He's got great command of his changeup and slider," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after comparing Liriano to Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia. "If he's on with his off-speed stuff, it's going to be a tough day.

"We worked the counts and got into situations, but he's on a roll with that off-speed stuff."

After the Pirates added an insurance run in the ninth, relievers Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli shut the door to seal the win. The two righties combined to allow three Cubs hits through the final two innings, but escaped unscathed.

Melancon recorded his 19th hold while lowering his ERA to 1.15. Grilli picked up his league-leading 23rd save of the season while striking out the side and lowering his ERA to 0.98.

That's a far cry from the Cubs bullpen, which has been marred by ineffectiveness and injury all season. Prior to Friday's game, manager Dale Sveum admitted the bullpen stresses weigh on his mind every day.

"That's been a constant all year for them," Sveum said of the Pirates. "Their bullpen has been shutting everything down from basically the sixth inning on.

"That bullpen is as good as there is in the majors. The game is over when the starters come out with a lead."

The Pirates improved to 36-25 and are looking like legit contenders despite a lackluster offense. But their pitching has kept them in games, and they are getting the timely hits.

The Cubs, meanwhile, went hitless with runners in scoring position and couldn't come up with the big hit despite another very good outing from one of their starters.

"It's one of those days where a couple runs were gonna win with those guys on the mound, but they got them and we didn't," Darwin Barney said amidst a tranquil clubhouse. "Obviously, if our offense puts a few on the board, it changes the whole game. Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to Liriano."

As the Cubs wait for offensive reinforcements like Bryant or Cuban import Jorge Soler to arrive, they will have to live with games like Friday, where the solid starting pitching can keep them just one hit away.

"It's uplifting," Barney said. "A lot of our starters are like that. We feel comfortable every day.

"You don't even have to check the lineup card to see who's pitching because you know you have a chance to win every day with the guys we run out there."