CHICAGO -- A five-run sixth inning against the Cubs' bullpen put the game out of reach as the Pirates avoided the sweep and took Sunday's series finale, 7-1, at Wrigley Field. The loss is just the second in the last 10 games for the Cubs.Gregory Polanco delivered the big blow
CHICAGO -- A five-run sixth inning against the Cubs' bullpen put the game out of reach as the Pirates avoided the sweep and took Sunday's series finale, 7-1, at Wrigley Field. The loss is just the second in the last 10 games for the Cubs.
Gregory Polanco delivered the big blow of the inning when he ripped a three-run triple off Luke Farrell to extend the Bucs' lead to 5-0.
Reliever Brian Duensing began the sixth after starter Kyle Hendricks was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. Duensing immediately surrendered a double to Austin Meadows before sandwiching a pair of walks around an RBI single from Elias Diaz.
"Duensing's been fabulous out of the bullpen, had a tough moment," manager Joe Maddon said. "I felt good about Luke coming in and possibly getting a punchout based on his abilities vs. that hitter, but it didn't work out.
"Beyond that, it's not Luke's fault. Luke hasn't pitched enough to be as sharp as he can be."
Hendricks made few mistakes over his five frames, but the first one came right away as Josh Harrison cracked an 87.1-mph sinker that caught too much of the plate into the left-field seats for a homer to lead off the game.
With two on and nobody out in the fifth, Thomas La Stella pinch-hit for Hendricks with the Cubs behind, 1-0. La Stella bounced into a 4-6-3 double play and Javier Baez then struck out to end the inning.
"Got a chance to get on the board and you've got to take it," Hendricks said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but nine times out of 10 with Tommy that's going to work."
The Cubs scored in the home half of the sixth when Jason Heyward led off with a double to center, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Anthony Rizzo's groundout to short.
Despite the loss, the Cubs have now won five series in a row, including two over the Pirates.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
'National League baseball': Hendricks had found his groove after the leadoff homer from Harrison, but Maddon elected to pinch-hit for the starter with two on and nobody out instead of letting the pitcher sacrifice the runners over with a bunt.
Maddon said the decision had little to do with Hendricks' performance; the right-hander was at 87 pitches at the time. Rather, Maddon said, the Cubs haven't been scoring many runs lately -- they finished with six runs in the three-game series -- and the damp and foggy weather wasn't "conducive to big runs."
"It was all set up," Maddon said. "We've got the best pinch-hitter in the league coming up, and he just happens to hit into a double play, which is going to happen on occasion. Kyle did his job, everything was right there, we just did not get the hit.
"National League, baby. He was taken out of the game on a National League move. American League, he's going back out."
HE SAID IT
"Meatloaf tastes good. Meatloaf is awesome. Actually, that's going to be one of the forthcoming paintings. It's going to be revolving around [musician] Meat Loaf with 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.' Anybody that's not into two out of three needs to reevaluate their baseball sensibilities." -- Maddon, on winning the series
The Cubs travel 90 miles north for a three-game series vs. the Brewers, with the two teams duking it out at the top of a tight National League Central. Left-hander Jose Quintana will take the ball on Monday after striking out a season-high 10 batters over 5 2/3 innings his last outing vs. the Phillies. Righty Junior Guerra, who has allowed a total of five runs in his previous three starts, will pitch for the Brewers. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.