Cubs lose Wisdom, don masks and beat Pirates

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Patrick Wisdom celebrates his two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs' Patrick Wisdom celebrates his two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 9/29/2021 10:07 PM

PITTSBURGH -- Cubs manager David Ross admitted one of the last things on his mind in the final week of the season was health and safety protocols once again making headlines.

But that's what happened Wednesday. Before playing in Pittsburgh, the Cubs placed Patrick Wisdom on the injured list. No official reason was given for Wisdom's absence, other than saying it was not because of the wrist injury that had kept him out of the previous two games.

 

Clearly though, something out of the ordinary was going on. Every player who walked from the clubhouse area into the dugout before the game had a mask on. When Cubs pitchers walked off the field after batting practice, they started donning masks about 10 steps before reaching the dugout.

Ross had to spend 10 days away from the team recently due to a positive test, but over the past two seasons, the Cubs have had very few player issues related to COVID.

"Things have popped up, even in my case, that are just out of your control to some point," Ross said. "All we can do is continue to follow major-league protocols and set everybody up to be as safe as possible.

"I keep telling myself I think years down the road I'll be really thankful for how my career started, simply because it's a different experience than anybody's ever had and I can come in being very genuine and say I learned in a really tough environment and came out of that and I'm better for it."

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The Cubs beat the Pirates 3-2 thanks to a 2-run double by Willson Contreras in the seventh inning. The bullpen has lost some leads lately, but Scott Effross, Rowan Wick and Codi Heuer finished the last three innings without giving up a hit.

It was a tough way for Wisdom's season to end with a sudden departure from the team, but he experienced his first extended major-league opportunity and took advantage. He set a Cubs rookie record with 28 home runs and has a decent chance of being a finalist for NL Rookie of the Year at age 30.

"I think he's made the most of his opportunity and he should be really proud going into this offseason," Ross said of Wisdom. "He came here and stuck to who he was. He contributed and helped us win a lot of games. He helped us stay on the path for a lot longer towards winning than probably anybody else we could have called up."

The Cubs brought up utility player Trent Giambrone from Iowa, and he singled as a pinch hitter in his first major-league at-bat in the eighth inning.

Giambrone was a 25th-round pick of the Cubs in 2016 out of Delta State. The New Orleans native hit 23 home runs for Iowa in 2019. He's the 65th player used by the Cubs this season, which sets a National League record.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think that was probably the biggest smile I've had on my face in a while when he walked in my office today," Ross said. "He's excited, I'm happy for him, and good things happen to good people. He's a guy that's easy to root for."

Making his last start of the season, Kyle Hendricks looked more like his normal self on the mound. He threw 5 scoreless innings, but then allowed 2 runs in the sixth without retiring a batter. In his previous five starts, Hendricks was tagged for 25 earned runs, so this does count as an improvement.

"I feel a lot better about it," Hendricks said. "Was able to get my fastball back down in the zone again, a lot of balls on the ground, a good pitch count. I accomplished the few things I set out to do to go into the offseason."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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