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Cubs win, go season-high 11 games over .500

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CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta made quality pitches when needed, got enough support in a three-run sixth inning -- sparked by Ben Zobrist's solo homer -- and Wade Davis set a franchise record for consecutive saves in the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night.

With the win, the Cubs are now a season-high 11 games over .500 and have a 3 1/2-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central.

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CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta made quality pitches when needed, got enough support in a three-run sixth inning -- sparked by Ben Zobrist's solo homer -- and Wade Davis set a franchise record for consecutive saves in the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night.

With the win, the Cubs are now a season-high 11 games over .500 and have a 3 1/2-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central.

View Full Game Coverage

"We can't concern ourselves with the way other teams are playing behind us, we have to continue to play our game," Arrieta said.

Arrieta struck out four and scattered two hits over six scoreless innings but admitted he didn't have his best stuff. He said he's changed his mindset the last couple months so "even when I don't feel I have my 'A' stuff, I just go out there and try to show a quality mix of pitches and change some speeds and allow them to put the ball in play and get weak contact."

It's worked. He is now 7-2 with a 1.69 ERA since the start of July.

Chad Kuhl fell to 0-4 in six career starts against the Cubs. On Tuesday he was charged with three runs on seven hits, including Zobrist's homer, over 5 1/3 innings. He pitched five scoreless innings, then ran into trouble in the sixth. He has completed six innings in just seven of his 27 starts this season.

Video: PIT@CHC: Zobrist drives a solo homer to right-center

"They're a pretty aggressive club," Kuhl said. "They hit some good pitches early in counts, then had a few longer at-bats, a little mix of both. ... Just guys that can work at-bats, guys that can get on base, steal bases, hit the long ball. They've got a special lineup over there."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Kuhl is "evolving well."

"Here's a young man with a really good arm, but he's pitching now, and that's the scary part," Maddon said. "When I first saw him, I thought he was more throwing the baseball, and now he's pitching. Give him credit. He's going to be a good starter for them."

Video: PIT@CHC: Maddon on Arrieta's start, win over Pirates

Anthony Rizzo had three hits and connected in the eighth for his 200th career double, and second of the game. He drove in Kris Bryant, who had walked to open the inning, to raise his RBI total to 94.

Video: PIT@CHC: Rizzo drives an RBI double to center

Davis now holds the Cubs' franchise record for consecutive saves, notching his 27th in a row to top the old mark of 26, set by Ryan Dempster (Aug. 2, 2005 to May 1, 2006). Davis also has 33 straight successful save chances, dating back to last season, the longest active streak in the Majors.

"He's a pitcher," Maddon said. "You saw two 3-1 counts [in the ninth], but he came back in both of [the batters]. He does not give in. He's got a starting pitcher's mentality as a reliever, as a closer. He's got weapons for righties and lefties -- it doesn't matter who the hitter is. He's got something for everybody, whether it's the cutter, the curve, the elevated fastball. He's a pitcher."

Arrieta was impressed.

"He's rock solid," Arrieta said. "He's a very unique closer [because] he has four pitches that he can utilize any time. That's rare to see from a guy in the ninth inning -- most of them are one- or two-pitch guys. That allows him to do more than most can in his position."

Video: PIT@CHC: Davis induces a groundout to end the game

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Catching up: Alex Avila hasn't provided much offense since joining the Cubs, but he delivered in the sixth. Zobrist smacked the first pitch he saw from Kuhl 405 feet into the right-field bleachers for his 10th home run. Kyle Schwarber then walked, and one out later, reached third on Rizzo's double to right, although he was nearly hit by the line drive. Tommy La Stella was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Avila delivered an RBI single to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead and chase Kuhl.

"La Stella's been hot. Avila's driven in some runs, but it's a guy with a ground-ball rate that's higher, plus [Kuhl had] handled him a couple times," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was just part of the decision I made, and it didn't work out."

Video: PIT@CHC: Avila drills an RBI single to right

R-E-L-I-E-F: The Pirates collected as many hits against reliever Koji Uehara in the seventh inning as they did against Arrieta over six. With one out in the seventh, Uehara served up John Jaso's ninth home run, a 373-foot shot into the right-field bleachers. Uehara was chased one out later when pinch-hitter Elias Diaz singled, but Pedro Strop took over and struck out pinch-hitter Jose Osuna to end the inning.

QUOTABLE
"There was a little bit of frustration in the first half with the way things were going. I might have focused on the results a little too much rather than just focusing on trying to execute and refine my repertoire. Now, where I'm at, I feel confident that even if I don't have my good stuff and if I'm without two pitches, the two pitches I do have are more than enough to get the job done." -- Arrieta

"It just kind of happened. I was trying to really shrink down my strike zone with the run deficit. I wasn't going to swing at anything unless it was right there. My timing was on and all that stuff, and it just happened to be right there, and my timing just happened to be on. That doesn't happen very often. When it does, it's like, 'Oh, yeah, cool, I have this game all figured out.' Until my next at-bat, then it's like, 'Oh, [shoot], there it goes.'" -- Jaso, on his home run off Uehara

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Jaso reached base four times in a game for the first time since Oct. 2, 2016, in St. Louis. His homer was his first since Aug. 7.

BATTER UP
Strop rarely gets an at-bat -- he's 0-for-1 in his career at the plate -- but he did get a chance to bat with two outs in the seventh, and he launched a long fly ball to center that the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen caught -- and looked a little surprised by.

"He hit that ball really well -- that's a double in any kind of gap," Maddon said.

Video: PIT@CHC: Strop's hard liner takes Cutch by surprise

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: Right-hander Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates as they wrap up a three-game series against the Cubs on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. Nova is five innings away from setting a career high for a single season, but he has slowed down in the second half. Since the break, he has a 6.00 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.

Cubs: Left-hander Jose Quintana will close the series on Wednesday. This will be the second time Quintana faces the Pirates -- he also did so on June 16, 2015, at PNC Park, and lost despite putting up a quality start. He's coming off a rough outing against the Phillies in which he gave up six runs over five innings and took the loss. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.