Cubs eliminated, then fall to Pirates for 8th straight loss
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The collapsing Chicago Cubs were eliminated from playoff contention shortly before losing their eighth straight game, falling 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Back-to-back wild pitches by David Phelps in the eighth inning enabled Pittsburgh to score the winning run. Just before Phelps' bout with wildness, Milwaukee clinched the second NL wild card with a 9-2 victory at Cincinnati. The Cubs will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Chicago's skid included four one-run defeats at the hands of NL Central-leading St. Louis.
Phelps entered in relief with the score tied 2-2 and walked Pablo Reyes to put runners on first and second with one out. José Osuna drew a walk from Brad Wieck (1-2) before scoring on the wild pitches, and Erik González added a sacrifice fly.
González was 3 for 3 with two RBIs as Pittsburgh won for the second straight night over the Cubs following a nine-game losing streak.
Michael Feliz (4-4) pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Keone Kela worked the ninth for his first save of the season. Kela has taken over as closer after All-Star Felipe Vázquez was arrested and jailed last week on felony charges including sexual assault of a minor.
Ian Happ homered and drove in both Cubs runs.
Both starters, the Cubs' Jon Lester and Pirates rookie Dario Agrazal, pitched six innings and allowed two runs.
Happ's homer leading off the seventh pulled the Cubs into a 2-2 tie and chased Agrazal.
The Pirates had gone ahead in the fourth inning when González doubled in a run and scored on Jake Elmore's single.
EPSTEIN STAYING PUT
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he has no plans of returning to the Boston Red Sox.
Speculation in Boston has centered on Epstein possibly replacing Dave Dombrowski, who was fired Sept. 8 as the president of baseball operations. Epstein is finishing his eighth season as the Cubs' president of baseball operations.
Epstein oversaw Boston's baseball operations for eight seasons from 2003-10 before leaving to join the Cubs. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, their first title since 1918, then won again in 2007.
Epstein declined to comment on the status of manager Joe Maddon, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
HURDLE COMING BACK
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who is under contract through 2021, told The Athletic on Wednesday that he has received assurances from team management that he will return next year for his 10th season.
There was some question about Hurdle's job security with the Pirates assured of their first last-place finish in the NL Central since 2010. General manager Neal Huntington said in a one-sentence statement released by the team that he will not address any personnel decisions until the end of the season.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (sprained right ankle) will not play again this season and SS Javier Báez (fractured left thumb) will be limited to pinch hitting and pinch running.
Pirates: OF Bryan Reynolds left in the first inning with right hamstring discomfort after being injured while trying to beat out a grounder. ... All-Star 1B Josh Bell (strained left groin), CF Starling Marte (sprained right wrist), C Elias Díaz (sprained right knee) and INF Cole Tucker (strained left knee) have been declared out for the season. ... RHPs Chad Kuhl and Ervin Santana, both recovering from Tommy John surgery, have thrown two-inning simulated games at instructional league camp in Bradenton, Florida.
Cubs: LHP José Quintana (13-8, 4.55 ERA) will start Thursday night's finale of the three-game series. Quintana has pitched a combined 8 2/3 innings and allowed 16 runs in his last three starts, though he did not factor in the decision in any of them.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (10-12, 4.49) is 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in his last four starts.