PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs won their 100th game of the season Monday night the same way they checked off the first 99 -- with dominant starting pitching and an overpowering offensive attack. Javier Báez hit a grand slam and drove in a career-high six runs, Kyle Hendricks lowered his Major
PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs won their 100th game of the season Monday night the same way they checked off the first 99 -- with dominant starting pitching and an overpowering offensive attack. Javier Báez hit a grand slam and drove in a career-high six runs, Kyle Hendricks lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 1.99 and the Cubs rolled over the Pirates, 12-2, at PNC Park.
"It's not too often you get this much talent in one room on one team," said Kris Bryant, who celebrated the 100th win by driving in his 100th and 101st RBIs on a two-run homer. "We need to realize what we have here and be grateful for it. I couldn't have pictured a better first two years in the big leagues."
Having already clinched home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series and the best record in the Majors, the Cubs entered the final week of the season with only history and personal accomplishments left to achieve. This is the first time the Cubs have won 100 games since 1935, and the sixth time in franchise history. Hendricks stretched his streak of starts allowing three runs or fewer to 22 straight, holding Pittsburgh to seven hits while striking out five over six scoreless innings in his penultimate case for the NL Cy Young Award.
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Hendricks' biggest threat for the ERA title? Teammate Jon Lester, who is second.
"It's either me or Jon, which is the cool part about it," Hendricks said. "That's awesome to have one of the guys on this team get it. I'm just going into my last start with the same mindset and not think about that."
The Cubs secured the Majors' third 100-win season in the past seven years, joining the 2015 Cardinals (100-62) and 2011 Phillies (102-60).
The Cubs pounded the Pirates with a four-run fourth and a six-run sixth, the former keyed by Baez's second career grand slam and the latter by Bryant's homer. Thirteen of the Cubs' 100 wins have come at the Pirates' expense. Pittsburgh rookies Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault struggled on the mound, with Kuhl allowing five runs and 11 baserunners in three-plus innings and Brault serving up seven (three earned) in 1 2/3 innings of relief. With their fourth loss in the past five games, the Pirates' elimination number dropped to two with six games remaining.
"It's painful experience the hard way," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Pain brings immediate attention to specific areas, and we're experiencing some pain in some specific areas right now -- collectively, as a club, and individually."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big fly: The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the first and scored one run on Jason Heyward's sacrifice fly. They loaded the bases again in the fourth when Heyward singled, Addison Russell was hit by a pitch, and Albert Almora Jr. bunted for a single. Javier Baez then cleared them with his second career grand slam, and second this season. The other came on June 28 against the Reds.
100 and counting: Bryant finished with 99 RBIs last season, but he was able to reach the century mark in the sixth inning, belting a two-run homer for RBIs Nos. 100 and 101. The homer was his 39th of the season. The Cubs weren't done that inning, taking advantage of an error by shortstop Jordy Mercer and adding four more runs, including a pair on Baez's single. The six RBIs by Baez are a career high.
"Thinking back to last year, ending on 99 [RBIs], I didn't want to do that two years in a row," Bryant said. "I reminded myself I'm a completely different player from last year. I knew it would happen." More >
Nobody home at first: The Pirates were responsible for a multitude of misplays throughout Monday's one-sided affair. But one in particular stood out, as it preceded Baez's grand slam and prolonged Kuhl's miserable fourth inning. With two on and nobody out, Almora dropped a bunt to the left of the mound. Kang picked it up and looked to first base, which was left unoccupied by the Pirates. First baseman John Jaso was lying flat by the mound after charging the bunt, and second baseman Sean Rodríguez was positioned too far away to cover the first-base bag. That allowed Almora to glide into first, one of seven straight Cubs hitters to reach safely to begin the fourth, and Baez immediately made the Bucs pay with a grand slam down the left-field line.
"Unfortunately, John got himself in too deep and couldn't get back. Sean read the bunt where it was going," Hurdle said. "[Rodriguez is] thinking the first baseman's going to break back. By the time he picks up on it, we're not there."
Back-to-back: The Pirates broke up the Cubs' shutout in the eighth, when Matt Joyce and David Freese homered off Cubs reliever Héctor Rondón. Joyce took a 2-2 slider to left for his 13th home run of the season, then Freese punched a full-count slider into the center-field seats, also his 13th homer of the year. It was Freese's second career pinch-hit homer, the Bucs' eighth of the season, and his first long ball since Aug. 19, ending a 32-game drought for him.
"He is so professional and so oriented to attention to detail and he's smart. I know he went to Dartmouth, but he's just smart. He knows what he's doing out there. A big part of it is the confidence factor. His confidence is absolutely in the stratosphere. That kind of pitcher, the kind of stuff he has, you have to have that confidence." -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon, on Hendricks
"We'd been in there in previous at-bats and early in that at-bat. You kind of trust what you see, but he made a good adjustment, cleared his hips and got it."-- Kuhl, on the 0-2 fastball that Baez hit for a grand slam
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hendricks owns the Majors' lowest ERA, and Lester is second with a 2.28 mark. The last time pitchers from the same team finished with the top two ERAs in the Majors was in 2005, when the Astros' Roger Clemens (1.87) and Andy Pettitte (2.39) did so.
Including last year's NL Wild Card Game victory, the Cubs are 25-11 against the Pirates over the past two seasons.
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Baez's six-RBI night marks the first time a Cubs player has driven in six runs out of the eight hole in the batting order since Starlin Castro did so in his Major League debut game on May 7, 2010, against the Reds.
Cubs:John Lackey will make his final regular-season start on Tuesday. Lackey is coming off a win over the Reds in which he gave up two runs over seven innings. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates. First pitch will be at 6:05 p.m. CT from PNC Park.
Pirates:Ryan Vogelsong will start the second game of the Bucs' four-game series with the Cubs on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Vogelsong struggled in his last start against the Cubs, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks over five innings on Aug. 31. Including that outing, the veteran right-hander owns a 9.14 ERA over his past five starts.
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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.