Cubs best Bucs behind stellar spot start

Montgomery tosses 5 2/3 scoreless with Memorial Day on mind

May 28th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Montgomery was in his hotel room on Sunday night, eating room-service dinner and watching his Cubs teammates play the Giants in Chicago. He'd traveled in advance of his start on Monday against the Pirates to make sure he had plenty of rest and the extra sleep -- plus some Memorial Day motivation paid off.

drove in three runs and added a two-run pinch-hit homer to back Montgomery and lead the Cubs to a 7-0 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park.

Montgomery, who has not hidden his desire to start, most likely will get another turn on Saturday against the Mets, which would have been 's turn. Darvish, on the disabled list with right triceps tendinitis, was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right arm Tuesday.

"We'll find out the Darvish situation, but there's a chance [Montgomery] will pitch the next turn," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Making his first start of the season, Montgomery held the Pirates to two hits over 5 2/3 stellar innings. The lefty retired the first 13 batters he faced until Corey Dickerson ended that string with a clean single to center with one out in the fifth.

"I was just trying to make good pitches throughout and keep my mindset on giving this team as much innings as we could get," Montgomery said. "Obviously, [Sunday] night and with the travel, the bullpen needed as much help as they could get, and I knew that. I was doing it for those guys."

He also was thinking about his cousin, Ronnie Tjaarda, who is stationed overseas with the Navy SEALs.

"Pitching on Memorial Day, it means a lot," he said. "I've got family members in active service. It's really cool for me to be a part of that in some ways. It gave me a little extra motivation."

Montgomery said he didn't know where his cousin was. They last talked around Christmas.

"I really respect what those guys do and the sacrifices they make," Montgomery said. "It's just cool to be able to pitch out there and put up a good performance."

The Cubs had recalled from Triple-A Iowa to make sure they had someone who could give them some innings if Montgomery struggled. This season, Montgomery's longest relief outing was three innings and he hadn't thrown more than 59 pitches. On Monday, he totaled 76 pitches and struck out five.

"That's an outstanding spot start," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Changeup played and the cutter played. All the stuff that he does well, he did today all in one package to both the right-handed and left-handed hitters. He mixed. He added and subtracted. The different zoning of the pitches. Very, very effective."

Rizzo gave Montgomery a boost when he led off the second with a home run off starter , while Russell came off the bench in the seventh to connect with one on and two out off . The Cubs added two more runs in the eighth on an errant throw by catcher and Rizzo drove in a pair in the ninth.

Montgomery appreciated the support from his teammates, whom he was glad to see.

"I wanted to be that guy who gave them that boost of energy and go out there and perform well," the lefty said. "I was watching [the Sunday game] and it felt weird. It made me focus and say, 'Hey, let's pick these guys up. They had a long night and a tough game.' It was good to be able to pick them up."


The Cubs loaded the bases with none out in the eighth and Chris Gimenez hit a grounder to shortstop , who threw home for the force. Rizzo was on third and his slide upended Diaz, who tried to throw to first for a double play, but the ball sailed down the right-field line for an error. The Pirates challenged the call, saying Rizzo violated the slide rule. After a review, the ruling stood, but Hurdle disagreed and was ejected. Two runs scored on Diaz's throwing error. More >>

"It's the perfect play by Rizzo," Maddon said. "My concern is they're teaching fans the wrong thing. The fans' reaction to 'Riz' the next time up indicates they think he did something wrong and that's what's so wrong about all of that. The player did not do anything wrong but because of new rules, it makes him wear the black hat for the moment. That's how you should teach your kids to slide to break up the double play at home plate."

Rizzo talked to Diaz when he came to bat in the ninth.

"You just say, 'Man, are you all right? I'm not trying to hurt you there,'" Rizzo said of his conversation. "I think there's a clear sense when someone is doing something with intent and trying to hurt someone [versus] just playing hard. I'm going to take the side of playing hard. That's what I pride myself in."


Rizzo launched a sinker from Kuhl to right to open the second, and his two-run single in the ninth raised his RBI total for May to 27, which leads the National League. Rizzo also is closing in on his personal best of 30 RBIs in one month, which he set in August 2017.

"I'm lucky we have a really good team and guys get on base all the time," Rizzo said said. "I'm getting the hits at the right time with men on base, and I'll keep them coming."

The Cubs might have had another homer in the second inning, but left fielder Dickerson made a great catch at the wall to rob .


"Days like this, you show up, you play. You find adrenaline from somewhere. It's not too hard -- it's a beautiful stadium. You rally around the guys. We had good energy from the first pitch on. Mike set the tone." -- Rizzo, on how the Cubs handled the rough travel


Russell's home run in the seventh was his second of the season and second career pinch-hit blast.


will get the start Tuesday for the Cubs in the middle matchup of a three-game series with the Pirates. The lefty has not given up more than two runs in each of his past five outings. He took the loss Wednesday against the Indians, giving up one run over seven innings. Lester did not get a decision against the Pirates on April 11. Pittsburgh recalled right-hander from Triple-A to make the start. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.