A night after playing five hours and allowing twelve runs the night before, the Pittsburgh Pirates [17-19] hoped to get back on track and limit the runs scored by the Chicago Cubs [20-15]. Pitchers Gerrit Cole [5-1, 2.32] and John Lester [3-2, 4.10] took the mound for their respective teams.
The Cubs would end up winning the second game of the series, 4-1. Both starting pitchers played outstandingly, however, the Bucs bullpen cracked and the Cubs took advantage.
Chicago took an early 1-0 lead after short stop Starlin Castro hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field. The run was set up after third baseman Kris Bryant singled along with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who assisted in getting Bryant to third.
The Pirates would crank out a matching run early in the third as right fielder Sean Rodriguez hit a solo homerun to left center field, tying the score at 1-1.
In the bottom of the third, the Cubs continued to keep up the pressure with center fielder Dexter Fowler singling to right. He later was called out on an attempted steal that was challenged by manager Joe Maddon.
The challenge came up in favor of the Pirates, but Bryant stayed patient and was walked in the following at bat. Rizzo singled hard again getting Bryant to third and setting up shop once again for the middle of the lineup hitters.
Castro picked up his second RBI of the day in the ensuing at bat as he grounded out into a fielder’s choice to third. The Cubs took their second lead of the day and take 2-1 advantage.
Starling Marte began the top of the sixth with double to deep left field, giving the Pirates a man in scoring position for the third straight inning. Marte’s efforts would be all for not as Kang grounded out to third and Lester rung up two Bucs in a row, Hart and Rodriguez, to get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the sixth manager Clint Hurdle put in Gregory Polanco, who replaced Rodriguez who was moved to first. Hart’s night came to an end early as was charged with an error, struck out twice and grounded into an inning ending double play in the second.
Cole left the game after finishing six innings pitched, seven hits, two earned runs and eight strikeouts. He sat down four straight Cubs down by way of strikeout at one point. Jordy Mercer pinched hit for Cole in the seventh, but later struck out.
In the seventh inning the Pirates found themselves with Harrison on third and Walker on second. McCutchen came up to bat with two outs, but ended up being struck out by Lester. The Cubs’ pitcher pitched his fifth quality start of the season and went seven innings, allowing only one run.
With the Cubs up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates were looking to continue Cole’s pitching success. Pitcher Arquimedes Caminero [0-1, 4.02] came in for relief for the Pirates in the bottom of the seventh. The Cubs were able to take advantage of some misplaced pitches, drawing two walks in the inning.
Russell, who was walked in the inning, ended up scoring on a wild pitch. Caminero was then called for a balk, moving Fowler, who also had taken a base on balls, to third base.
After the balk, Bryant was walked ,while Rizzo added another run in the inning, hitting a sacrifice fly to Marte. The Cubs added some insurance late and led the game 4-1.
In the top of the eighth and time winding down, the Bucs once again found themselves with men on third, Marte, and second, with no outs, Pittsburgh again failed to score with men in scoring position. Polanco chopped a ball right to relief pitcher Phil Cooke [0-0, 6.52].
Jason Motte [1-1, 5.52] was brought in for relief and finished off the inning. Alvarez struck out on a 3-2 pitch on a ball well above the letters, and Stewart lined out to right, killing any hope of getting those runners home.
This is the first time since 2011 that the Chicago Cubs have won six straight games. They improve to 21-15. Lester picked up his fourth win of the season while Travis Wood notched in his first save of the season.
Cole suffered his second loss of the season. The Pirates will look to get back at least one game tomorrow at 2:20 p.m. at Wrigley Field. The expected starters are A.J. Burnett [2-1, 1.60] and Jake Arrieta [4-3, 3.00].
Photo credit: AP Photo