The Cubs captured a World Series championship last season behind a three-word mantra: We never quit.
Ten games into a new season, the never-say-die attitude is alive and well.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth and ninth innings Friday against the Pirates, but both rallies fell short in a 4-2 loss in front of 40,430 at Wrigley Field.
Trailing by two with two outs in the ninth, the Cubs threatened when Kyle Schwarber walked, Kris Bryant reached on an error and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch. But Pirates closer Tony Watson got Ben Zobrist to ground out to end the suspense.
The Cubs, who left 11 men on base, also failed to capitalize in the eighth. Felipe Rivero got pinch hitter Willson Contreras to ground into a force out at third base after Bryant, Rizzo and Jason Heyward loaded the bases.
“Right now, with a lot of us, I think the rhythm just isn’t quite there yet at the plate,” Zobrist said. “But it’s just kind of early in the season, it’s chilly, it’s kind of been tough to get it going this week for everybody, but I like how we battled late in the game.”
Zobrist wasn’t alone.
“We just couldn’t get the hit when we needed it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I loved the effort right down to the very end of the ballgame. We were in it. It just did not want to play out.”
The Cubs, who already had turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, fell behind by two in the sixth, when the Pirates scored three times. They strung together three singles against starter Kyle Hendricks and reliever Justin Grimm to start the rally.
David Freese’s single off Grimm tied the score. After Grimm got John Jaso to fly out, Francisco Cervelli doubled in Gregory Polanco and Freese.
Hendricks (1-1) wasn’t at his best. He allowed three runs and six hits, struck out three and walked two in 5⅓ innings. A year after leading the majors with an ERA of 2.13, Hendricks’ ERA through two starts is 5.73.
The Cubs weren’t as successful against Pirates starter Gerrit Cole (1-1), who scattered six hits in six innings and struck out five.
After Freese’s single in the third gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead, Zobrist singled in the fourth to score Bryant, who had doubled. Schwarber put the Cubs ahead in the fifth with a single that scored Javy Baez.
But even after failing to mount much offense early, the Cubs made things interesting late, which Zobrist said bodes well for when they have more at stake than they do in April.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot in the tank, and we’re going to score a lot of runs this year,” Zobrist said. “It’s kind of just a matter of time before everybody starts clicking.”
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