Clutch hits from Cutch, Kang carry Bucs over Cubs
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Gerrit Cole allowed one unearned run in six innings and Andrew McCutchen hit a much-needed two-run triple to lead the Pirates to an 8-1 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh held a one-run edge before tacking on four runs in the sixth, all coming with two outs. Jordy Mercer knocked an RBI single before McCutchen drilled a triple to center field, a hit that might have left the yard if not for the winds blowing in from the north that made the game-time temperature of 39 degrees feel like 32.
"The Mercer hit on an 0-2 count was a big play of the game for them, and that kind of put them back in the driver's seat, and then they had it on after that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
The Pirates hope McCutchen's triple gets the former Most Valuable Player going. McCutchen went 2-for-5 and recorded his 1,000th career hit but batted just .194 in April.
Cole remains undefeated after scattering three hits and fanning eight over six innings while improving to 6-0 with a 2.92 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs.
"It's nice to get out of here without getting swept," Cole said. "We can relax a little more on the off-day, clear our minds and get ready for St. Louis this weekend."
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was uncharacteristically wild, walking three and hitting a batter over five innings. He entered Wednesday having issued only one walk all season.
Pitching in relief of Hendricks, Gonzalez Germen was touched for four runs, all in the sixth, and the Pirates tacked on two more against lefty Phil Coke in the ninth, including an RBI single by third baseman Jung Ho Kang (3-for-4).
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Walk the line: With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Starling Marte turned an 0-2 count into a go-ahead, bases-loaded walk against Hendricks. The Pirates didn't draw a walk in either of the first two games of this series, and they entered the night with the fewest walks in the Majors. Marte, in fact, matched his season total by drawing two walks on the night.
"For a team that hadn't been walking a lot, we were able to draw some today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had some guys throw down and just stretch some things out, get some looks, battle, and it played out big."
Case of the yips:The Cubs' lone run scored thanks to an error by Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez, who moved across the diamond from third this offseason after dealing with throwing yips. Alvarez experienced catching yips on Wednesday, charged with two errors when he simply didn't catch two pickoff throws from Cole in the second. The first -- which ripped through the netting in Alvarez's glove -- allowed Kris Bryant to advance to second, and Bryant later scored on Miguel Montero's single.
"That's a freak [accident]," Cole said. "It just happens, I guess."
Cutch returning to form? McCutchen struggled through the second-worst month of his career in April, but he ended it on a positive note. The Pirates' star center fielder ripped a two-run triple -- the Bucs' first of the season -- off the ivy in center field in the sixth inning and sped around the bases, showing no signs of the left knee discomfort that's bothered him at times this season. Two innings later, he legged out an infield single for career hit No. 1,000.
Solid in relief: Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson hasn't had many opportunities to pitch out of the bullpen this season, but he turned in another solid effort on Wednesday. Jackson allowed two hits and struck out three in two innings to remain unscored upon in five relief appearances (seven innings) this season.
Going, going, Kang: Kang made a rare start and took full advantage of the playing time, putting together by far his best performance in his first big league season. He finished 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, two RBIs and his first stolen base. He fell a few feet short of his first Major League home run in the ninth, settling for a double off the fence in right-center. More >
"They got us tonight, but any time you meatloaf the other team in a series, you'll take it. Meatloaf tastes good. You do that all season long, man, and by the end of the season, it might be your favorite meal of all time." -- Maddon on winning the series
"Good for him. Congratulations. One thousand. Way more than I got." -- Hurdle, who had 360 big league hits, on McCutchen's milestone
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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo added to his franchise record for most hit-by-pitches in the month of April when Cole plunked him in the fourth, the seventh time Rizzo was hit this month. Marlon Byrd (July 2010) is the only Cubs player to have been hit more than six times in a calendar month since 1914.
Cole won his fourth straight start this season, stretching out an undefeated streak that reaches back to Sept. 7. He's gone 8-0 with a 2.40 ERA over 10 starts during that stretch.
A successful challenge in the fifth by Maddon helped end a potential big inning for the Pirates. With two outs and the bases loaded, Alvarez grounded to second, where Jonathan Herrera dove to his right and threw to Starlin Castro to get the force at second. Marte was initially called safe by second-base umpire Lance Barrett, but the call was overturned to end the inning.
Pirates: The Bucs left Chicago late Wednesday night and headed to St. Louis, where they will enjoy an off-day on Thursday before beginning a three-game series against the Cardinals on Friday. Right-hander A.J. Burnett will start in the opener looking to continue his dominant start to the season and pick up his first win. Lance Lynn is slated to start for the Cardinals.
Cubs: The Cubs are off on Thursday before welcoming the struggling Brewers to Wrigley Field for a three-game weekend series. Left-hander Jon Lester makes his fifth start of the season as he continues to search for his first win as a Cub. Milwaukee counters with right-hander Wily Peralta, who is also winless.
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