PITTSBURGH -- After seeing his team score five runs over the previous three days, manager Clint Hurdle decided it was time for a change atop the order. Hurdle turned to Josh Harrison, his "Tabasco sauce" leadoff man, and Harrison helped spice up the Pirates' lineup in a 6-5 win over
PITTSBURGH -- After seeing his team score five runs over the previous three days, manager Clint Hurdle decided it was time for a change atop the order. Hurdle turned to Josh Harrison, his "Tabasco sauce" leadoff man, and Harrison helped spice up the Pirates' lineup in a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
"Put something else on there," Hurdle said before the game, "and see if we can enlighten the flavor a little bit."
Harrison hit a leadoff homer against left-hander Jonathan Lester and began a double steal as the Bucs put up five runs in the first two innings, matching their output from the last three games.
"We wanted to push the envelope with him at the top, push the envelope on the bases. Try to do something to break up some rhythm for Lester on the mound," Hurdle said. "Josh has shown the ability to do that in the past. He did some more of it tonight for us."
Francisco Cervelli, Phil Gosselin and Andrew McCutchen each doubled in a run, and first baseman Josh Bell padded Pittsburgh's lead with a solo homer off Lester in the sixth. Lester battled through his second straight rough outing, allowing five runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings.
The problem wasn't Lester, who said he felt better than he did on April 16 at Wrigley Field when he threw seven shutout innings against the Pirates. The problem was the Cubs went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, stranding 13.
"We had more than a ton of opportunities," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at a game like that -- don't blame anybody. We collectively left too many guys on base. We had the right guys up there at the right time, and it did not want to work out." More >
The Pirates' early offense, fueled by a few uncharacteristic Cubs misplays, was enough to cover another short start from top prospect Tyler Glasnow, who allowed three runs and recorded 10 outs on 89 pitches.
The Bucs' bullpen took over from there. Wade LeBlanc, Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero combined to toss 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Glasnow.
Setup man Daniel Hudson served up a towering two-run shot to Anthony Rizzo, who drove in four of the Cubs' five runs. With the Pirates' lead down to one run, closer Tony Watson recorded the final four outs -- the last two on a double play following an error by Jordy Mercer -- to seal the win and avoid a three-game sweep.
"He's got ice in his veins," Mercer said of Watson. "It's not a big deal."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The rundown: Lester's defense did him few favors on the night, particularly in the second inning. With one out and runners on the corners, Harrison took off for second base, drawing Lester off the mound. Gosselin played his part in the double steal, racing home. But their execution was flawed, and the Cubs had Gosselin trapped in a rundown. However, catcher Willson Contreras dropped the throw from third baseman Kristopher Bryant, allowing Gosselin to score and Harrison to reach second safely. Harrison came around to score on McCutchen's double to right field, finishing Pittsburgh's three-run inning.
"We did everything right on that," Maddon said. "Willson just did not hold onto the ball. ... Good throw to the plate, and the easiest part, we didn't do."
Can't go home: The Pirates were holding on to a two-run lead in the fifth when Kyle Schwarber came to the plate with one out and runners on second and third. He hit a hard grounder down the first-base line off LeBlanc, but Bell scooped it up and fired home. While most first basemen would have simply stepped on the bag and taken the out at first, Bell remembered the advice he received late last season from Harrison.
"'Hey, if you feel something, you've just got to trust it. That's the game,'" Bell said. "'You can't second-guess yourself, or it's too late.' In a game like tonight, that play was a separator. I was happy."
Cervelli received Bell's one-hop throw, turned and tagged out Lester as he slid across the plate. Hurdle then called upon right-hander Nicasio, who retired Bryant to end the inning.
"May have very well swung the game in our favor. However, that's not a play many first basemen are ever going to make," Hurdle said. "He chose differently, and he chose well as far as getting an out. For me, a big part of the game. Very well could have swung the game in our favor."
"I could've had a good RBI chance there and didn't come through. I'm not too worried about it at all. I know we have a good team here. It's one game, it's one loss." -- Schwarber on the missed opportunities
"If the team can win, that's all that matters, really. I'm glad they could come through and score a lot of runs." -- Glasnow
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rizzo belted a two-run homer with one out in the eighth, his fifth of the season and 20th of his career against the Pirates. That matches the 20 he has hit against the Reds, which he reached over the weekend when he knocked three in Cincinnati. Rizzo has four homers in his last six games. The exit velocity on Wednesday's homer was 98 mph, with a maximum height of 127 feet and an estimated distance of 358 feet from home plate, according to Statcast™.
GIFT KEEPS GIVING
Growing up in a South African baseball clubhouse with his mother and little brother, Mpho' Ngoepe overcame nearly impossible odds to reach the big leagues. But he made it on Wednesday, as the Pirates called up the infielder to balance out their bench. Ngoepe entered the game in the fourth inning to play second base in his Major League debut. Ngoepe, the first African-born player in big league history, singled up the middle in his first at-bat. Ngoepe hugged first-base coach Kimera Bartee as the Cubs rolled the ball toward the Pirates' dugout.
"I've dreamt about this over and over and over," Ngoepe said, "and it lived up to every aspect of the dream that I had as a kid." More >
Cubs: After a day off in Boston, Jacob Arrieta opens the Cubs' Interleague series against the Red Sox at 6:10 p.m. CT on Friday. The last time he pitched at Fenway Park was June 30, 2014, when he flirted with a no-hitter and gave up one hit over 7 2/3 innings.
Pirates: After an off-day on Thursday, the Pirates will travel to Miami and begin a three-game series against the Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Marlins Park. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make his fifth start of the season. Taillon has never faced the Marlins.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
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.