Joakim Soria nearly made a huge mess of Gerrit Cole's great start, but Starling Marte's eighth-inning sacrifice fly helped the Pirates to a 5-4 win in the first game of their doubleheader Tuesday.
The Cubs got one run in the first as Dexter Fowler hit an infield single, stole second and moved to third on Chris Stewart's throwing error, and came home on a sacrifice fly.
The Pirates quickly made up for that run and then some, however. In the bottom of the first, Jason Hammel walked Gregory Polanco and hit Neil Walker, and then Andrew McCutchen grounded a single to shallow left. Polanco probably would have been safe no matter what, but it helped that Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber isn't much of a defender -- his throw was way off, and Polanco scored easily.
Two batters later, Pedro Alvarez walked to load the bases, and up came Travis Snider, who hit a grounder up the middle that Addison Russell couldn't quite field. Two runners scored, and the Bucs had a 3-1 lead. In the fourth, the Bucs tacked on a run as Cole singled, moved up on a wild pitch, and came home as Walker doubled to the wall.
Cole cruised for awhile after that, and he had a strong start overall, striking out eight and walking none. (Along the way, Polanco gunned down pitcher Trevor Cahill with 9-3 putout. Strong stuff.) But just as it looked like the train had left the station, Cole ran into trouble, and then his bullpen caused a pileup.
After Cole struck out Kris Bryant in the seventh, Alvarez failed to field what turned into an infield single by Miguel Montero, and Starlin Castro hit a single that hit Cole in the leg. Tommy La Stella doubled to left to cut the lead to two.
Then Soria entered and gave up the lead in brutal fashion, throwing two run-scoring wild pitches to tie the game at four. He finally did strike out Schwarber to end the inning. Twitter was brutal to Soria, not just for today's wild pitches but his abilities as a whole. I understood that but didn't think it was entirely fair -- on balance, he's been useful as a Pirate. There's no doubt, though, that his wild pitches aren't helping. He had none the whole season with Detroit, and now he has five in 18 2/3 innings with the Bucs.
Anyway, the Bucs took care of business, so no harm, no foul. (They did have to use Tony Watson and Mark Melancon, but I assume those guys would have pitched anyway with a 4-1 lead.) After Watson pitched a quiet eighth, Alvarez led off the bottom of the inning with a walk. The other Pedro -- Florimon -- pinch-ran, and he stole second and headed to third on Montero's throwing error. Marte then hit a line drive to left for a sacrifice fly that gave the Bucs a 5-4 lead. Melancon struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth for the save.
With the win, the Pirates are now just two games back of the Cardinals for the division lead. They're five games ahead of the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot.