Cubs, Seiya Suzuki hit the skids in 4-3 loss to Pirates

The hot-hitting Suzuki went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to end his streak of reaching safely in his first 12 games. The Cubs (6-7) lost their third straight game to fall under .500 for the first time this season.

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Cubs designated hitter Seiya Suzuki reaches for an outside pitch and topped the ball to third base for an RBI ground out in the second inning against the Pirates on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

Cubs designated hitter Seiya Suzuki (27) grounded out to third in the second inning, but drove in a run that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead against the Pirates.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki is off to a hot start — hitting home runs, reaching base in his first 12 games, winning the National League Player of the Week Award in his first week in the majors and creating a much-needed buzz at Wrigley Field.

He entered Thursday night’s game against the Pirates with a .387 batting average, a .438 on-base percentage and a gaudy 1.404 OPS. Suzuki isn’t expected to sustain that kind of production for the long haul. The league is just learning about him and figures to adjust as the book on Suzuki — who hit .315 with a .987 OPS in nine seasons in Japan — is written.

The question is how well will the 27-year-old Suzuki adjust back. It’s a chess game that is as old as the game itself.

“The first thing you want to do — you want the player to have success — he’s doing that,” manager David Ross said. “And teams will try to figure out what they think his holes are. And then he’ll have to adjust. That’s kind of the evolution of a major-league player.

“We have the information. You have things you tried. You find out where hitters have the most success, and over time, you find out where they do or don’t have weaknesses and try to exploit those. That’s what creates a big, long career.”

The challenge is to stay a step ahead of the scouting report. But Ross said the only solution is to wait for the adjustment and respond. And he’s confident Suzuki will do that.

“You never know until you get to this level,” Ross said. “But I think his profile coming over here [from Japan] and why we gave him the money and the contract [five years, $85 million], we believe strongly that he’s a really good major-league-caliber player.”

Suzuki might be edging closer to that moment. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the Pirates before 32,341 fans at spring-like Wrigley. It snapped Suzuki’s streak of reaching base in his first 12 games with a plate appearance.

“He faced really good pitching today; those guys were coming right at him,” Ross said. “First time DH-ing I think in a long time. Just trying to put our best bats in there. New situation for him, how he handled that — try to observe that and kind of learn from that. Those guys made some pitches.”

It was only one tough night, but Suzuki is 0-for-7 in his last three games, dropping his average from .429 to .343. After getting a franchise-record 10 RBI in his first 22 plate appearances, Suzuki has one in his last 28. The Cubs (6-7) lost their third consecutive game to fall below .500 for the first time this season.

Suzuki struck out in the first, had an RBI groundout to third in the second and struck out in the fifth. And in his biggest moment of the game in the seventh inning — with Nico Hoerner on third, two outs and the Cubs down 4-3 — Suzuki struck out on three pitches against Pirates reliever David Bednar.

Suzuki’s second-inning RBI gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead that would not last. Mark Leiter Jr., while much better than in his first start for the Cubs when he allowed seven runs in 3„ innings against the Rockies at Coors Field, gave up a two-run homer to former Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach in the third inning that cut the lead to 3-2.

That was the only blemish in Leiter’s four innings. But Ethan Roberts relieved him in the fifth and ran into immediate trouble — allowing Yoshi Tsutsugo’s two-run, two-out double that gave the Pirates the 4-3 lead.

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