PITTSBURGH -- A night after the Pirates' bullpen decisions backfired, manager Clint Hurdle seemingly pushed all the right buttons Saturday at PNC Park. Specifically, the one several Bucs players have referred to as the "easy" button: Felipe Rivero. The lights-out left-hander escaped a jam in the eighth and breezed through
PITTSBURGH -- A night after the Pirates' bullpen decisions backfired, manager Clint Hurdle seemingly pushed all the right buttons Saturday at PNC Park. Specifically, the one several Bucs players have referred to as the "easy" button: Felipe Rivero. The lights-out left-hander escaped a jam in the eighth and breezed through a perfect ninth, and his five-out save sealed the Bucs' 4-3 win over the Cubs.
Juan Nicasio was unavailable Saturday after giving up a one-run lead in the ninth in the Cubs' 9-5 win on Friday, so Hurdle turned to right-hander Daniel Hudson in the eighth inning. Hudson recorded one out before giving up a double to Ian Happ. Hurdle then summoned Rivero, who began warming up before the eighth inning even began.
Rivero pitched around and walked Kristopher Bryant before getting the final two outs of the eighth -- the last coming on a slick play up the middle by second baseman Max Moroff.
"[Rivero is] amazing. We're glad we've got that guy," said starter Ivan Nova, who covered the first seven innings for the Pirates. "It looks so easy. We're really thankful we have him."
Rivero needed only six pitches to record the final three outs, completing his third save of at least four outs in the past week. The five-out save lowered Rivero's ERA to 0.79.
"This year has been awesome for me," Rivero said. "Coming out at any point in the game and knowing what I've been doing, it's just another game. Just trying to be the same guy."
The Pirates broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth, when Jordy Mercer doubled and scored on Adam Frazier's single to right.
"The at-bat to Frazier, infield in, ground ball to second, and you hope it's right at one of the guys, and he was able to split the gap," Chicago starter Jacob Arrieta said. "That seemed to be the at-bat that changed the game."
That was the third run the Pirates scored off Arrieta, whose command disappeared in his fifth and final inning, when he couldn't get a grip on the ball because he was sweating profusely. Andrew McCutchen padded the Bucs' lead in the sixth, continuing his torrid stretch at the plate with a solo home run off reliever Justin Grimm, and McCutchen's insurance run became even more important when Addison Russell smashed a solo shot of his own off Nova in the seventh.
Jason Heyward followed Russell's homer with a single to right field, and he advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. But Nova held the line, striking out pinch-hitter Jonathan Jay to strand the potential tying run at third base. As he marched into the Pirates' dugout, Nova shouted and waved his cap as fans stood and cheered.
• Nova fired up to do his job
"When you have a guy like Nova go seven and have Rivero come in with that type of arm for a couple innings, it makes it tough," Arrieta said. "You're hoping [Rivero] makes a mistake. With 99, 101 [mph] from the left side, I don't care who you are, but it's tough to deal with."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
More of Moroff: When Rivero ran in from the bullpen, Moroff replaced Frazier at second base as part of the double-switch. The infielder had been warming up since the fifth inning, and he got exactly the ground ball he wanted. Russell hit a hard grounder up the middle, but Moroff made a backhanded scoop and delivered a perfect throw across his body to first baseman Josh Bell for the last out of the inning. In the Pirates' dugout, bench coach Tom Prince informed Hurdle that was Moroff's "signature play" -- and it has been since Moroff was at Class A Advanced Bradenton.
"I love making that play from second base. It's pretty much routine," Moroff said. "I don't know how it looked, but it felt pretty routine. ... It was big. I was fired up. The guy was in scoring position, so it saved a run."
Pitchers who rake: Arrieta tied the game in the fifth with a two-run homer off Nova, the fifth of his career, and his first since June 27, 2016, against the Reds. It was the ninth home run allowed by Nova this year, and the first he has ever given up to the opposing pitcher. The ball came off Arrieta's bat at 98.2 mph, according to Statcast™, and landed in the left-field seats a projected 380 feet away.
"I got one of the few sinkers or fastballs that [Nova] left up in the strike zone tonight," Arrieta said.
The good news for the Cubs is that Arrieta had no problems with his thumb, which had opened up, almost like a cut, in his last two starts. More >
"We're a game under .500, a couple games out of first place. As poorly as we feel like we've played overall, there's a lot of games we've dropped that maybe could've worked out in our favor. ... But I think most of these guys will agree when I say I like where we're at and how much time we have left to make things happen. Granted, we're not where we'd like to be, but we're not far off." -- Arrieta
"To get five outs, it's a big save. It's a good save for us. It's a bounce-back game after last night. This team's done it before. After some challenging games, we bounce back, we play well and we finish off."-- Hurdle
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Nova has pitched at least six innings in each of his 14 starts this season. The last Pirates pitcher to do that was Eddie Solomon, who went at least six innings in 17 starts in 1981.
This was Hurdle's 540th win as the Pirates' manager, putting him ahead of Frank Frisch for the fifth-most victories in franchise history. Chuck Tanner is fourth on the list with 711 wins, and Fred Clarke (1,422) is the club's all-time managerial wins leader.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After Anthony Rizzo's leadoff single in the first inning, Happ hit a hard ground ball to second base. Frazier quickly scooped up the ball and fired to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who threw to Bell at first to complete the double play. First-base umpire Tim Timmons initially ruled Happ safe, but the Pirates challenged and the call was overturned after a 47-second review.
Cubs:John Lackey will close the series and this road trip on Sunday. The right-hander has had problems with home runs. He's given up 19 already; he served up 23 last season. He's 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in seven career starts against the PIrates. First pitch will be 12:35 p.m. CT at PNC Park.
Pirates: Right-hander Jameson Taillon, making his second start since returning from surgery for testicular cancer, will pitch for the Pirates as they wrap up a three-game series against the Cubs at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday at PNC Park. Taillon tossed five scoreless innings in his last start, a 7-2 win over the Rockies on Monday night. He is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.
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.